By Nicole Johnson
“The general public must recognize that only after the demystification of U.S. agriculture will family farmers, labor, and consumers see beyond corporate agribusiness’ manipulations to the point where they will recognize that both their mutual interests and the future of agriculture can be best decided through a system that not only practices political democracy, but economic democracy as well.” – Ingolf Voegler
Readers of the New York Times were recently treated to a rarely glimpsed view of how the globally-sourced industrial food complex assembles the raw ingredients of the omnipresent hamburger. In his startling expose entitled “E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Ground Beef Inspection,” Michael Moss provides a window from which to witness well-hidden meat industry practices that most people, judging from some six hundred comments left on the New York Times website within 24 hours of the article’s publication, find thoroughly repulsive.
Moss’s article tracing the processing history of the E.coli-contaminated hamburger consumed by Stephanie Smith, which left her body ravaged and permanently disabled, has much to commend it. While detailing how Cargill shaves costs by scraping together its “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties” from trimmings and mash-like products sold to it by no less than four suppliers, Moss uncovers how the company failed to follow its own safety plans without facing any interference from the USDA until some one got very, very sick.
However, the article leaves out critical information from its analysis that would help us understand why so much is wrong with the meat inspection process today. Filling in these gaps is important if we want to take the correct measures improve the safety of our meat supply. Furthermore, if we don’t gain a fuller understanding of how and why the meat industry’s inspection process became an essentially unregulated, privatized affair, we are likely to repeat the same mistake and allow Congress to pass food “safety” legislation that will serve to make the world a safer place for the cartels controlling the global produce trade but do nothing at all for the safety of our food supply.
The vested interests behind the creation of the 2009 Food Safety Enhancement Act and its Senate companion bill S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, are the same vested interests who were behind the earlier deregulation of the meat and poultry inspection process. They aim to minimize the regulatory obstacles faced by transnational corporations engaged in international trade, which is increasingly becoming the movement of goods from one subsidiary affiliate to another subsidiary affiliate. And they’re using the issue of food safety to con us into consenting to their wishes.