The reality of food safety

The reality of food safety isn’t exactly what “Joe & Jane Average-Citizen” think it is.  It isn’t about ensuring that everyone has access to healthy, uncontaminated food with clearly written ingredient lists.

It’s more about government and corporate control over what we choose to purchase and eat.  Okay, so some foods aren’t always safe or may not actually be healthy for us, but do we really want a government agency deciding what we can and can’t buy and eat?  It’s not like the government has a great (or even good) track record at making decisions for us!

When I get out of bed, get dressed, and then venture out into the world, whether I choose to walk, ride a bike, ride public transportation, or drive a motor vehicle myself, it really should be my decision to make, based on my own unique set of circumstances.

As I wander out there in my local community, I make up my mind about where I am going to shop and what I am going to buy, there again, based on my own unique set of circumstances.  Obviously, if the weather is threatening and I’m miserable, I’m not going to walk or ride a bike halfway across town to hit the produce market, and will elect to buy fewer items at a traditional grocery store that is located much closer.  But, if I am driving or it’s a lovely day, I’ll venture on to the produce market, and maybe even to a farmers or flea market to make my purchases.  If I spot a likely looking truck alongside the road with a load of vegetables or shrimp or fish…I just might stop there too, and buy directly from the fisherman or farmer, if I’m satisfied with the quality of goods being offered.

Is it safe?

I’ve never gotten sick, but I also use something that is probably going to be regulated soon too, it’s called “common sense.”  I have educated myself about the risks of food borne illnesses that I may encounter through fruits, vegetables, shrimp, fish, etc.  Am I going to buy shrimp from a truckload sitting in the hot sun with flies buzzing over drying shrimp with a foul odor?  Of course not!  I’m also not going to buy fruit that is oozing with fruit flies fluttering around it.  Do I need a law to protect me?  No, because that farmer or fisherman will not be able to sell his goods if they are foul, so he or she will take reasonable effort to keep it good and fresh.

Is it possible that some terrorist organization could attack us by contaminating products at the flea market or road side stand to cause a food borne illness?

Well, I suppose so, but I highly doubt that such an effort would be made.  Typically, the effort invested as opposed to the number of affected people would render such an event as being impractical.  I’m far less apt to have problems from a foreign terrorist than I am some kooky official who has no idea what they are talking about and decides to outlaw buying directly from small farmers and fisherman, because it is “unregulated” and therefore “dangerous.”

It’s no more dangerous than going fishing myself or growing my own garden, but that too could be put under assault from well meaning but completely ignorant politicians being manipulated by corporate lobbyists.  They assure us that this cannot happen, but when reading the laws, ANYONE can have their crops and livestock seized, at any time.  Yes, I know it is to protect the public, but how many of the public are being affected by Joe Small Farmer or Jill Small Fishingboat in reality?

I  know that if I am buying raw milk, I have got to investigate the source of that raw milk thoroughly.  Yes, I agree, that if it is being sold commercially, the dairy needs to be inspected, and testing standards set for the cattle or goats producing the milk to ensure that they are in fact healthy and the dairy is clean, and that the milk is handled properly before being sold to make cheese or whatever out of it.  Most raw milk, however, is not sold commercially, but rather sold or traded among friends and acquaintances for their own purposes.  In those cases, it is their responsibility to ensure that the animals and handling is up to par.  Raw milk has its fans, and for good reason.  There is a strong possibility that the chemical composition IS changed slightly by the pasteurization process, and certain cheeses have to be made from the raw product or they cannot be made at all.  If I want to use raw milk, I should be aware of the risks, just like I should be aware of the risks of tobacco, driving a motor vehicle, riding a motorcycle, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, or eating sushi.  I don’t need “Big Brother” deciding what is too dangerous and what is not.  I can understand banning the use of raw milk without proper labeling to protect the public, as in restaurants, commercially produced foods, etc., but to ban it outright is plain wrong.  Label it, just like other “risky” products are labeled.  I may prefer my oysters cooked, but I sure don’t want raw ones banned either!

Any food can be rendered unsafe  by poor handling.  While honey, on rare occasions, can contain a form of botulism that is dangerous to infants, usually honey is harmless to adults.  It is not recommended to feed honey to infants because of the risk factor, but many cases of this rare form of botulism are not traced back to honey, because it occurs elsewhere as well.  Hmmm

I got food poisoning myself once.  It wasn’t from a bad picnic, mayonnaise, raw meat, raw milk, or any of the 1001 things I have been told to not eat, but rather from drinking a “cappuccino” from one of those dispensers found in millions of convenience stores nationwide.  The first symptom actually appeared when I had consumed less than 1/4 of the cup (within 10 minutes), but unaware of what was happening, I continued sipping down the contaminated beverage, resulting in an illness that had me completely out of commission for about 3 days and could have resulted in a hospital stay.  All it took was for a clerk receiving minimum wage to be too busy or too lazy or too forgetful to clean the spouts during his or her shift, and a serious illness resulted from a “safe” commercially produced, chemical laden beverage.  (My advice, skip these drinks, especially when traveling–they are far too risky!)

At the same time, the conspiracy front and uninformed alternative media sources are taking a lot of information from the Codex Alimentarius and interpreting it according to their own slants.  I’m sure government sources are too, but this is a serious document that needs serious attention by everyone potentially affected.  Last time I checked, every single human being on this planet needs to eat, and needs to eat a reasonably healthy diet on a regular basis in order to maximize their potential.  So, I’m pretty sure that both you and I need to be informed about this piece of material, since it is a piece of legislation that is affecting the world (which the USA is also part of.)  Start by reading, and seriously reading, their website and see what you think.  Is it really a good idea, or is it really going to restrict our access to the foods and supplements that can keep us all much healthier?

Many people believe it is a serious threat to our health and well being, such as the natural food industry.  Without informing yourself, you are leaving yourself open to potentially excessively restrictive legislation that can be very detrimental to our society.  Wikipedia has an entry about these standards as well.  Natural Solutions Foundation has information about their perceptions of this standard as well.

In addition to the Codex Alimentarius, there are concerns about GMOs or genetically modified organisms.  This implies some genetic manipulation beyond merely breeding for desirable qualities, but rather things like cloning or adding or removing genetic code from the DNA.  Many people believe that consuming these types of foods, whether plant or animal, can result in harm to the human body.  Many times the complaints are around insufficient testing over a long enough time period to watch for potential damage to the human genome or health.  This is a legitimate complaint–we’ve all seen the recalls of drugs in past years for side effects that included death because of fast testing and quicker marketing tactics from pharmaceutical companies with FDA’s stamp of approval.  The FDA has not done much to create consumer confidence in their assurances of safe foods and drugs, nor has any labeling indicating which foods are GMOs or may contain GMOs been instituted.

Then there is our hamburgers, that American fast food standard.  GM loves a cheeseburger, but even he often opts for something else these days, after we discovered that the meat in fast food burgers (and grocery store ground meat too, I’m sure) has been treated with ammonia to make it “safe” for human consumption and kill beef-borne microorganisms that can make us sick.  I think about my grandmother, who told stories about the beef being hung on the porch in the winter, as they lived in a cabin near the school so they could attend school.  Their father would hang a beef there, in the open air, and they would whack off chunks of it to cook their meals with.  No one ever got sick from that, and it hardly meets anything resembling “safe food handling” methods of today, nor would I want to eat meat that was handled that way.  I also am not thrilled with the idea that a slaughterhouse is so nasty  that it is worse than a side of beef dangling in the open air on a porch outside of a log cabin…and has to be treated with ammonia to make it “safe.”  Ugh.

Some states are looking at new legislation to ensure that families can raise food themselves that is actually safe, and to protect them from overzealous local governments and obnoxious nosy neighbors who think that gardens and small livestock are hazardous to their communities.  (Georgia)  I think that it is a great move in the right direction, and doesn’t mean that we’re going to turn every suburb and city into a third world look alike, between the homeless hordes from unemployment and our vast subdivisions without residents courtesy of the mortgage industry crash, we are doing a fine job of that already!

The critical factors to remember are to be informed, all the way from your local government to what is being considered on a world wide scale.  Don’t make up your mind until you research both sides of the story, from the “terminator” seed and Monsanto to whether or not you can have chickens in a suburban back yard in Atlanta.  Don’t be apathetic, or you can end up having to shop at a state-approved grocery store and thinking about the stories of Cold-War Russian shops with their long lines, empty shelves, and high prices while living in America.  Apathy is our worst enemy, and information is our best ally.

About giascott

Writer, blogger, cook, grandmother, mother, wife, radio personality, outdoor enthusiast, dog enthusiast, crafter, artist, and part-time nut~~I've earned a lot of t-shirts in my day! I'm one of those crazy independent women who can cut down a tree, build you a shed, sew you a dress, cook your dinner, make some soap, pitch a tent, build a fire, catch some fish, dig in the garden, chase a kid or two, write you a poem, paint you a picture, and a dozen other things...just don't ask me to sing! I'm also embarking on a relatively new portion of my life, one of being disabled. I'm learning some lessons along the way about a lot of things too.
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