Food safety has been the topic of the week.  On one level food is internationally traded, yet not internationally regulated.  Fish is commonly imported into the US; at the same time sea food is known for having high levels of mercury.  By importing fish we are less aware of how safe it is because the FDA does not have the funding to check it. While this has always been in the back of my head, this past week the cafeteria has offered fish multiple times and I have turned away from it.  Not because I question its nutritional value but I’m more discomforted by the distance that fish may have traveled to arrive in Selinsgrove and what environment it has been exposed to.  This argument can be made for all food, so my idea of not eating it because it is probably imported is not valid.  Nevertheless I would like to refute this with my knowledge of mercury poisoning and my support for a more localized and transparent food system.  If the FDA is not going to be given the capabilities to regulate and monitor all of the food that Americans consume then we have to turn to a more localized system.  This does not mean that our fish will be mercury free or not farm raised, but the connection between the farmer and consumer increases understanding of food and consumer power over the quality of food they eat.  Localized food will be regulated more by the consumers than the government and the food industry.  This change in food system maybe incredibly difficult and take time but for the health of Americans and animals it is necessary.

 

 

The art of cooking is not dead! According to a recent study done by the Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, low and middle income families are cooking dinner almost five nights a week.  More of these families are staying home and cooking, instead of stopping at one of the numerous fast food restaurants scattered throughout the country.  This means that in place of mysterious meat chicken nuggets they’re making meals from scratch or from starter boxes.  Shopping for produce or food in general has also changed; results showing families prefer fresh and healthier choices.  But what caused this? Was it a movement led by the government agencies such as the FDA? Did it start in schools?  Furthermore what is the effect on grocery stores and fast food restaurants? Or will this have an overall impact on American’s health?  Finally what is the effect on the family? Are they spending more time together?

 

Either way I see this as a good sign.  It also seems logical because from personal experience buying food and cooking is healthier, you know what is going into it and it is cheaper.  I would also argue that the increase in home cooking can slowly develop into a movement supporting local buying and growing your own produce.   This means that the local movement can be supported by the lower and middle classes, not just upper class families who are buying expensive organic food.

 

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Food safety has been the topic of the week.  On one level food is internationally traded, yet not internationally regulated.  Fish is commonly imported into the US; at the same time sea food is known for having high levels of mercury.  By importing fish we are less aware of how safe it is because the FDA does not have the funding to check it. While this has always been in the back of my head, this past week the cafeteria has offered fish multiple times and I have turned away from it.  Not because I question its nutritional value but I’m more discomforted by the distance that fish may have traveled to arrive in Selinsgrove and what environment it has been exposed to.  This argument can be made for all food, so my idea of not eating it because it is probably imported is not valid.  Nevertheless I would like to refute this with my knowledge of mercury poisoning and my support for a more localized and transparent food system.  If the FDA is not going to be given the capabilities to regulate and monitor all of the food that Americans consume then we have to turn to a more localized system.  This does not mean that our fish will be mercury free or not farm raised, but the connection between the farmer and consumer increases understanding of food and consumer power over the quality of food they eat.  Localized food will be regulated more by the consumers than the government and the food industry.  This change in food system maybe incredibly difficult and take time but for the health of Americans and animals it is necessary.

The art of cooking is not dead! According to a recent study done by the Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, low and middle income families are cooking dinner almost five nights a week.  More of these families are staying home and cooking, instead of stopping at one of the numerous fast food restaurants scattered throughout the country.  This means that in place of mysterious meat chicken nuggets they’re making meals from scratch or from starter boxes.  Shopping for produce or food in general has also changed; results showing families prefer fresh and healthier choices.  But what caused this? Was it a movement led by the government agencies such as the FDA? Did it start in schools?  Furthermore what is the effect on grocery stores and fast food restaurants? Or will this have an overall impact on American’s health?  Finally what is the effect on the family? Are they spending more time together?

Either way I see this as a good sign.  It also seems logical because from personal experience buying food and cooking is healthier, you know what is going into it and it is cheaper.  I would also argue that the increase in home cooking can slowly develop into a movement supporting local buying and growing your own produce.   This means that the local movement can be supported by the lower and middle classes, not just upper class families who are buying expensive organic food.

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Up until this week I have thought of where my food came from as in what animal or where the produce was grown.  So for lunch I had a sandwich including bread (from grains), turkey (from a turkey), tomato (internationally or nationally grown, probably genetically modified), lettuce (the same as a tomato), and provolone cheese (made from cow’s milk but other stuff was probably added).  It was not until now that I really thought of all the labor and people that work to produce the food that I eat at lunch.  For example the tomato in my sandwich had to be picked (by an enslaved or impoverished migrant worker), transported, and then delivered.  But then I can only imagine the path of the turkey, being raised in some enclosed area (I don’t even want to know what he was fed), then slaughtered, inspected…hopefully, transported, and then severed.

Overall, there are more people working with the food I eat than just the employees in the cafeteria and the people who deliver the food.  Not only animals dying when we eat meat, but so are people; if they are not dying many of them are seriously injured.  Furthermore, Florida tomato pickers have been enslaved during the past two centuries to harvest tomatoes.  This is all because each participant of our food system wants to make a profit; not because they want to feed the world.  Even though these low prices may make it more affordable the quality of meat that is currently mass produced is incredibly low.  It would be better for Americans to eat less food of higher quality that does not threaten producers (like those at the slaughter house) than what we are eating now.  The problem is that people are unaware, and even if they are aware they have to act on this.  The best way would be through economics; buying less food or only high quality food.  We do rule the market, and if that is what producers are using as a production measure, then we should mess up what they’re measuring.

 

In the 1990s and the early 2000s enslaved tomato pickers attacked Taco Bell for buying tomatoes for a price so low that forced horrible conditions on the laborers and farmers.  The company finally agreed to the penny a pound policy proposed by the pickers.  Despite this ‘honorable’ decision, this does not mean that Taco Bell is a healthy or safe food supplier.  James Andrews describes how Taco Bell is responsible for at least 60 recent cases of salmonella.  To make this situation worse, when the government was investigating the outbreaks they did not want to inform the public of the source.  They were afraid of the economic effects of the company if revealed.  Furthermore they did not want to face a law suit or scrutiny from the corporation.  Isn’t that great? So there was an outbreak of disease and the government doesn’t want people to know because they don’t want to make one corporation mad.  Doesn’t matter if people are getting sick, as long as people are making money?  Andrews makes an good comparison saying that not recalling food or alerting the public of a food hazard is comparable to car companies not recalling vehicles that don’t function properly.  Personally, as a consumer I would like to know.  Especially as one who enjoys a taco, I would like to enjoy one that would not make me sick.  Furthermore I would really like it if our government didn’t have its head up the butts of corporations to the point where they would ignore public safety.

Throughout readings this week the distance between food and consumers has become blatantly apparent.  On one level cows that are raised and slaughtered for meat travel from the pasture to feed pens to slaughter houses to processing factories all to become human or animal food.  This is really different from traditional farming when a cow lived on a farm was slaughtered and then sold.  The complex process is actually not very long because cows now feed on a corn mixture that fattens them more quickly.  Nevertheless, a consumer can never know where their meat came from; as in they do not know which farm.  Since this process is so complex consumers are separated and left to decide what to purchase based on cost.  On another level consumers are not allowed to witness parts of this path of production.  It is illegal for consumers to enter animal slaughter houses.  This is something that is surprising on many levels.  First of all this indicates that the methods of slaughtering an animal are so brutal that it is a federal offense to trespass on to slaughtering property.  Furthermore the federal government is supporting the industrialized food system by preventing consumers from understanding or seeing how their food is processed.  Most Americans do not question this distance as long as they are receiving the safe and cheap food that they are demanding.  But what about the animals?

I think (and like to think) that consumers would have different demands for their food if they understood the life of a beef cow.  People would be applaud by the fact that cows are force fed mixtures of corn, cow blood, and cow fat; food that cows are not meant to eat.  These methods of production violate animal rights.  Moreover, if consumers were aware of the methods of slaughtering used, they also would not accept these methods.  Every time an author or journalist says we or the consumers want processed foods, I have to disagree.  Consumers do have demands; however, their demands are controlled by corporations and the government.  They control what farmers are growing, what ingredients are in our food, how our food is grown, and the price of food.  If consumers had more of a say or the government was protecting the interests of the consumers I believe that our food system would be more traditional and less industrial.  It is understandable that humans have a natural curiosity and desire to progress, yet why does that have to be at the expense of the animals and even consumer health?  We have enough smart scientists and farmers to create a stronger food system economically and one that is more nature friendly.

 

The article Cheers for USDA’s new nutrition standards introduces improved recommendations for healthy eating in the US.  Overall the standards support more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and milk that is 1% or less.  Other standards were to eat less starchy vegetables and cases like pizza sauce did not count to as vegetables; yet these two were not approved by Congress.  Potato growers and suppliers of school pizza pressured Congress not reject these two standards.  This is a perfect example of state capture, farmers and producers are preventing the government from recommending a diet that could hurt their industry.  This is incredibly discomforting; the USDA is an established organization that is supposed to support national health, so Congress should not have any say in what standards are accepted.  They are not established nutritionists or doctors; they are looking at food from a purely economic and political point of view.  Nevertheless the USDA is not perfect either; Tom Vilsack is the Secretary of the USDA was endorsed by the Corn Refiners Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, and many other farming organizations.  So these new standards most likely protect these associations’ interest.  On another note this post states the government will leave it to schools to figure out how to fund and institute these changes.  It is hard to convince children to eat more vegetables and grains, yet schools must find a way.  This is a direct example of how the government standards will favor the economic strength of food that meets any of these standards.  In the end these standards seem more healthy, but I disagree with the method of approval and the demands that are placed on schools.

Weekly food log:

During this first week class I have begun to uncover unique characteristics of the farming industry and food system.  On a basic economic level supply and demand system can never be fully effective for farmers.  If the yield and product supply is high then the price of goods is low and farmers have trouble competing.  At the same time if there is low supply the price is higher causing farmers to compete by lowering prices and losing profit.  This never ending push and pull does not exist in other industries.  Any form of government assistance through subsidies does not solve the economic hardships of farmers, but only encourage a greater struggle for production.  At the same time through the modern food system processors and input organizations are controlling the costs and purchases of farmers.  The struggle of farmers and economic power of the government, processors, and input organizations is unsettling.  Nevertheless, it is more nerve ranking that most Americans do not understand or think about these issues.

Another economic factor to consider is globalization.  This is something I have seen and experienced firsthand; going to grocery stores in the dead of winter and being able to purchase any type of produce and explore isle of international foods.   Consumers like me are unaware of the farming industry; we just observe a large diversity in large grocery stores.  I am inclined to assume that international trade creates more competition between farmers across the globe.  If a product from a different country is grown more easily and cheaper than the US, it will mostly be imported instead of being grown domestically.  International competition also incorporates the issue of food and farming safety standards that are maintained by each country.

It is clear that despite economic hardship of farmers, we have expanded our food system by producing and importing new, delicious, and exciting food.  This has been made possible through methods of industrialization and globalization of our food system.   Yet, this system has no connection to the natural processes of farming and consumption that humans have survived on for centuries.  The only hopes to returning to a more agrarian society are presented in the environmental, sustainable, and organic movement brings hope by that pulling our food system towards more traditional methods.

Weekly Response:

The article “A Budget Neutral, Better Way to Boost Food Safety” by Dr. Richard Raymond (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/01/a-budget-neutral-better-way-to-boost-food-safety/) discusses the US food safety system and ways it can be ameliorated.  The main point of the article is to demonstrate the impracticalities of our food safety procedures in the Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  The problem is dual jurisdiction. For example, the chicken in chicken noodle soup or frozen buffalo chicken pizza is inspected twice; as a single ingredient and in the final product.  This means that the FDA and FSIS both inspect the same chicken.  So chicken in chicken noodle soup is inspected twice, once before it is in the soup and after.  Logically this is a waste, in theory the chicken could just be checked once in the final process and by one organization.  While I understand Dr. Raymond’s point, you could also argue that if chicken is contaminated it is better to catch it before it is sent to the soup factory, than after.  In some ways Dr. Raymond is asking the soup companies to make a blind investment.  They would not know whether they were receiving edible chicken or not until they have produced their product.  Overall, I think that it is acceptable to check the chicken twice, whether or not it is done by the same organization does not matter.

On another note the article points out that imported produce is not inspected, while the FDA carefully checks meat such as pepperoni, chicken, and beef.  Imported fish is also not inspected.  These inconsistencies in food inspection are discomforting because many people including myself just assume that all food, especially that is imported, is inspected.  In this instance, I agree with Dr. Raymond, that these imported products (especially fish) should be inspected.  At the same time, I contest the idea of taking inspectors from dual jurisdiction products and transferring them to inspecting fish.  By just expanding inspections to have chicken inspected twice in addition to fist, food safety can become more inclusive.  The idea of expanding food safety in such a way is unlikely considering that it would increase costs; yet we can always be hopeful.

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