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Don’t Eat the Beef

December 15, 2008

Or the ungutted, salt-cured alewives.

This is kinda scary.  Every so often (more so in the last few years), we hear about a major food recall – contaminated spinach, possibly-tainted tomatoes, melamine-laced dog food and dairy products…the list goes on and on.  But, the really frightening thing is that these are only the ones we hear about.

After a quick little Google search, I was able to find the FDA’s list of current and past food and drug recalls.  The amount of food that gets recalled in this country is staggering – we should all be very concerned about the safety (or lack thereof) of our nation’s food supply.  Never mind Chinese imports – that’s a whole other kettle of mercury-riddled fish.

But we only hear about the few isolated incidents that make it past the news producers.  There are hundreds more recalls that never make the headlines, but still adversely affect the food supply in ways that we’ll probably never understand.

We take for granted that the food we buy is going to be free of toxins, bacteria, and other pathogens.  We expect that workers are paid a fair wage, and are treated humanely. We assume that inspectors regularly arrive to make sure that slaughterhouses, factories, and other food production facilities are clean and safe.  How wrong we are.

Even the terms “organic” and “kosher” can’t always protect us from the vagaries of our food system – the FDA has a woefully short supply of certified inspectors, food producers put the interests of stockholders above public safety, and food industry lobby groups spend billions of dollars annually to prevent protective regulations from being enacted.

It’s disgusting, and wrong.  Corporate and political greed have corrupted this country so absolutely that we Americans, in the greatest nation on the planet, cannot even trust our leaders to make sure that the food we eat is fit for consumption.

So, for fun,  head on over to the FDA’s recall site, and have a good scare.  I should have posted this on Halloween.

If you’re interested in reading more about this sickening state of affairs, I recommend two books: The End of Food by Paul Roberts and Food Politics by Marion Nestle.  (Another good food book is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, but I’ll save the diatribe on non-nutritional food-like substances for another time).

Oh, what’s an alewife, you ask? It’s a Great Lakes species of herring that’s often used as lobster bait.  It’s been recalled, too.

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