Move for Food Freedom!

“Food Safety Now!”

Who wouldn’t rally behind such a cause?

This has been the battle cry of those in the uppermost echelons of our food regulatory bodies and public health departments for years now. With each widely-publicized food-borne disease outbreak comes more proposed controls on who, where, when, why and how we can put food on our tables. With such names as The Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s hard to argue against the proposals…at least until you peel away the layers.

The vast majority of these bills are simply means to control the food supply; and thereby control the citizenry. Sure there are some well-intentioned, pure-hearted advocates of food safety out there. You’ll always see some grieving mother who’s child fell victim to a tainted chicken finger but the legislation seldom addresses the source of the problem. The majority of the food-related regulations that are proposed (these bills are chock full of additional riders and clauses that have nothing to do with food) are aimed at smaller-scale farms and food suppliers. It is often the case that the proposed regulations would restrict individual citizens from growing their own food on their own property.

Some claim that the larger the food operation, the more vulnerable it is to contamination, thus making an argument for local food production. When a food supplier has a face and interacts more intimately with the consumer, the theory is that they will be more accountable for the quality of their product.

Others argue that larger operations have cheaper operating costs and can therefore afford more safety measures and testing.

Cantaloupes, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This debate was had out in the media coverage of the most recent Listeria outbreak. The 25 deaths were all linked to cantaloupe from a single farm in Colorado. The Freakonomics blog seemed to be relentless in their demonization of the “small”, “local” canteloupe supllier responsible for the outbreak. There were also voices that refuted the claim that the small scale operation’s lack of regulation was to blame for the outbreak. They cited the fact that though it was a single supplier of the tainted melon, they were in no way a “small”, “local” operation due to their distribution to 26 states (even as far as New York). The fact all contaminants were actually found in the packing house, not the fields, is additional evidence that if any corners were cut, they were not for production purposes, but to keep up with the interstate commerce of competitor melon suppliers.

Before I get too “conspiracy theory” on you, I’ll end this post with a list of advocate organizations for food and health freedom. Take a look, see what you like, and as always…do some reading and make up your own mind.

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