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What does true food safety look like?

7/30/2008 12:36:15 PM

Tags: food safety, industrial food system, consumer protection, food regulation

Food Safety

Recent food safety scares have the American public frightened. This year it was salmonella in tomatoes, then peppers. Last year we were scared of peanut butter, spinach, imported seafood and even pet food. And, of course, our megacomplex agribiz system ensures a major beef recall just about every year.

The good news is that this big hot mess has people talking. Activists and policymakers alike are looking for a better way. The bad news is that it looks like the answer to our complicated, industrial mess of a food system is likely to be nothing more than a complicated, over-regulated bureaucracy that stands to hurt all our smallest farmers most.

There’s no better time to join the conversation. (With the Farm Bill shuttered, we have to turn our attention to something ... right?) So here are a few good places to start.

* For a refreshing editorial perspective on our food safety system, check out Local Harvest director Erin Barnett’s take in their latest newsletter.

* Read the New York Times editorial that got Barnett stewing.

* Food safety expert Marion Nestle has also discussed the potential of a food safety overhaul in her What to Eat blog. You’ll also learn more (much more!) about U.S. food safety systems in her numerous articles and books, including Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (University of California Press, 2002); Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism (University of California Press, 2003); Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Food and Nutrition (McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2004), and her latest book, What to Eat.


As always, if you have opinions of your own, we invite you to share them in our comments section below.



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Larry Bouget_2
3/17/2010 7:41:20 AM
I continually read about our food supply and how and what we should do to ensure safe and better food. Everywhere I turn I hear people talk about the possible situations we could possibly face in case of some disaster or war, but I don't see many people doing anything about it. Are we going to wait until some disaster occurs to take action. Of course then it will probably be too late. I would really like to see us take action now. I am as guilty as anyone else. We just moved to Tennessee from Louisiana. We purchased 8 acres and we have plans of building a log home but we need to get started with gardens and livestock to better feed our family. Lets get started friends. Lets have fun planting and growing and raising livestock. Have a great day.

jchand21_2
3/15/2010 8:55:59 AM
Food safety is a serious issue that needs to be taken more seriously by everyone, including government agencies. Problems begin at mass production levels with companies like Tyson, not only in the way that raw food is handled but also in how it is grown. I strongly recommend the film "Food Inc." to anyone who has purchased a Tyson product or plans to. I don't mean to bash only one company because there are several that deserve it, however it is one of the worst and first that came to mind. I have worked in several higher end restaurants over the past 10 years and although a great deal of effort is made to adhear to health inspections and food safety regulations, there is much more that could be done. I have a strong feeling that food production on a commercial level is going to get much worse before it gets any better.

Conspiracy2Riot
3/8/2010 6:03:05 PM
Did anyone really think we'd have a change in Food Safety with Monsanto's Michael Taylor at the helm?

MC_2
11/19/2009 11:21:21 AM
Reliant as our current mainstream system is on fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers and -icides, international politics, and a vulnerable transit system... ...I'd say food safety and food security both look a lot like producing it yourself or acquiring it locally. Personally, I think we'd do well to dismantle the current system of supply and "revert" to localized production. That scares a lot of people, though, so I don't say it too loud. Panicked cattle can be dangerous. Fight what threatens small-scale local production. Fight to have regulations on agribiz enforced, and applied as appropriate instead of on a one-size-fits-all basis. Be the voice and the face of self-reliant agriculture, both on a personal and a community scale. Absent some horriffic conspiracy, we can fight ConAgra&Co. It takes organization. They have to be constantly (and vociferously) reminded that they serve us, not the other way around. Perhaps most of all, vote with your wallet. In order for there to be a supply, there's got to be a demand.

Luna Gardens
11/2/2009 4:51:28 PM
This is exactly why I have been telling friends and family to vote NO on issue 2 here in Ohio. That issue would allow Ohio to make its own rules/laws on livestock care and management. I strongly believe it gives the state way too much power and could possibly lead our state into NAIS. I stress how those eggs they get will quickly stop along with that fresh organic backyard farm raised turkey we eat each thanksgiving. They had no clue what it was all about and now they see when put in the way above why I stay informed and refuse to give my vote for something not "holeless". It takes patience and a whole lot of giving on our part to get others to understand what could happen when what they enjoy from us could be taken away from them by the governments "laws for the safety of the people". It is just the way some of those "non homesteaderfriendly" minded people are. Give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish he will never go hungry. The best way to wake others up is by taking the lesson above and spreading it around. It may not work with everyone but patience and baby steps are the way to go.

Denimflyz
10/25/2009 12:15:17 PM
I think that people better start growing their own, or making contacts with others who do. I feel that our politicians are making plans to control the food until only certain individuals get food anyway. And the way to control is with these food safety locks that they want to put in place which is starting now as we speak. Please people, be wise and be dependant upon yourselves, the politicians are not going to be there for you. I grow 70% of my food, and barter for what little meat I encorporate into the family diet. I can, freeze, dry. I am an urban homesteader, and rely on myself and no one else. Start a neighborhood garden project, as only this will provide safe food. Then when politicians control the home garden with taxes and fees, and permits, then we need to resort to revolts. Wake up people!!

Barbara Pleasant_3
10/20/2009 7:20:47 PM
This thread makes me think of what we ate today, which is based on what the garden produced. Peppers and apples figure into almost every meal, and I continue to explore the versatility of arugula, bok choy and kale. My dinner plate is what food safety looks like, because most of it came from my garden. These days, there is very limited food safety beyond that simple standard.

SBLACK
10/12/2009 7:37:02 PM
tropicalgreen2003 took your advice and watched The Future of Food. Something needs to be done about the future of our farming industry. The word really needs to get out there. I know I'm going to recommend watching this to many others.

tropicalgreen2003
10/10/2009 1:55:38 AM
For those of you with faster internet connections hulu.com now has a free broadcast of movie The Future of Food. Warning: watch it while you are calm or you might break something. Disclaimer: Will almost certainly induce you to take action of some kind.

SBLACK
8/3/2008 11:53:31 AM
We need to start buying more locally and supporting our small family farms. At least this way you know where your food is coming from and how it is being grown or raised. I don't know much about farming though I've lived in rural USA my entire life. I've recently joined a CSA and feel so much better about the food we receive from them than what I have to purchase in the store. Like PlicketyCat stated earlier there is no reason to have strawberries flown in from who knows where just so you can eat them in November. Learn to eat what is available. I think food safety starts in our own homes by being educated about where our food comes from and what might be done to it.

Christine_1
8/2/2008 10:30:33 AM
I am only 37, and for the longest time, I've been trying to teach my children the importance of local and organic foods. My husband grew up on a family farm where sevin dust (unfortunately)was the norm, but you grew whatever you could as well as you could, and you preserved it by canning, freezing, or drying. They slaughtered all their own animals, gathered eggs from their own chickens. Although he HATED working on the farm as a child, he is GRATEFUL that he knows how to ensure that his children will have not only a good, safe food supply, but also the understanding of how to do it for themselves. We lived in the city with a small yard, but we always had a garden. When a new job forced us to relocate, we came to the DelMarVa Peninsula. Historically, small family and truck farm country, now all monoculture corporate chicken houses. There are less than 15% of the original family farms left intact. Monoculture crops of soy and feed corn have taken over the landscape, and even those are slowly losing out to condos (I call them ant farms) and vacation housing for the wealthy of the DC/Baltimore/Philly areas. I rent (you can't afford to buy, here...) a small house on one acre, and what I haven't been able to grow organically myself, I get from local pesticide-free orchards and stands. I manage to get my peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and beets by the bushel. It's sometimes expensive, but still cheaper than store-bought items. My 13 yr old son is learning to identify good bugs vs. bad bugs, the concept of very limited spraying with certified organic products only if you are no longer able to hand-pick or hand-treat. He is also learning crop rotation and planning. My 8 year old daughter scrubbed and peeled a bushel of beets by HERSELF last year to prep them for canning. She helped pack jars and learned the difference between pressure-canning and boiling-water canning. I have also noticed that my son, who wouldn't think of ev

PlicketyCat
8/1/2008 9:23:28 PM
I think the industrialized and centralized food system is one of the worst vulnerablilities our country faces. We're mono-cropping, using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, growing food for portability not nutrition, hording animals into unhealthy feedlots and feeding them species inappropriate food. We're using so much fuel to transport food from mega-farms to central processing plants, using more fuel to produce energy for processing, and then even more fuel to transport it back out to distribution centers. So what does food security look like to me? 1) Distributed, local, biodiverse farms owned and run by independent farmers (maybe with a *bit* of corporate investment). Each rural region could produce enough food for the urban areas if they worked with nature instead of against. Curbing (i.e. STOPPING) urban sprawl and preserving agricultural land needs to happen now not later. You can reclaim green space and growing space within the cities, but the air, soil and water is so polluted that the produce might not be that healthy. 2) Regulation exempions for the small producer. The USDA food safety laws just don't apply to a small farmer or processor who raises his own plants and animals with personal care or has to face his customers directly everyday. The cost of licensing and "approved" facilities that are required by regulation is too cost prohibitive for a small farmer and ensures that only the mega-agricorps can afford to do business... but they are the very businesses and processes that cause/enable disease and single points of failure in the food chain. 3) Eat locally, eat seasonally, grow organically. Really, having strawberries flown in from far off places just so you can eat them in November is plain wasteful. So is all the weird food additives and processed food... whatever happened to real food?!

George Works
8/1/2008 8:43:04 AM
In centuries past the most important aspect of food safety was the assurance that one would have something to eat. Many of us now leave this to "the system", but the system has been under a lot of strain lately. "Just in time" inventory management, increasing population, decreasing water supplies and many other factors have left food inventories at record lows. Consequently, the system has become increasingly vulnerable to weather and other disasters. I live on a tiny Caribbean island that imports food from the US and elsewhere. Residents know well that we will be on our own if food is scarce, because that's just what happend here during WW2. So many of us get a good part of our food from our own orchards and gardens. I also keep some goats, cows and chickens. I was an engineer by training and had little contact with farming and gardening. But it is really not so difficult to learn with all the fine information resources available today, and a little help from friends. You could do it too. Not only do I know my food is safe, but it is much better tasting than supermarket food. And, I know that I will still have it after a disaster.










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