I Wish I Didn’t Have to Publish So Many Food Recalls

Out of all of the recalls I have to publish on a daily or weekly basis (foods, drugs, consumer products, autos…) the ones that troubles me most are food recalls.

Yes, recalled cribs concern me, especially when the company that made the cribs is no longer in business, or rather was sold and renamed, and nobody has any recourse but to throw the cribs away. And especially when infants continue to die because companies like Graco and Simplicity are too cheep to hire US labor, but export the making of these product to China, where the safety of our children are of seemingly no concern. But I digress… The reason food bothers me is because we cannot live without it. Children can survive without a fancy crib, but none of us can last very long without food. And there were 40 food recalls last month alone.

While many recalls are simply undeclared ingredients, such as allergens, food coloring or preservatives, a good portion of them are for nasty things like listeria, salmonella and e. Coli., including a recent recall of hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef.

Foodborne illnesses have always been an issue, and always will be, no matter how large or small the farm is, or who processed the food. But when I read books like Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, or read stories like this from farmers like Joel Salatin, or like this from a family in Ohio – it becomes even more clear to me that our food production and safety inspection system is broken.

When we let large agribusiness giants like Tyson and Cargill help write national legislation regarding food safety, not only are we ensuring that loopholes will be built-in to the laws for the largest of large companies, but we are also ensuring that the laws will be prohibitively and unnecessarily constrictive to small farmers.

Some argue that there is a conspiracy going on, either from large agribusiness, the government – or both – which would seek to consolidate our food production into the hands of a very few. Others, such as myself, simply think it is a problem inadvertently caused by our broken system in Washington, in which lobbyists have access to the collective and private ears of our government, while the average American is only heard superficially on the campaign trail.

Either way, consumers pay the ultimate price. With small farms forced out of business, we must buy our food from faceless corporations. And with leaders too dumb/busy/lazy/apathetic to write the very laws they seek to pass, we are forced to accept that food safety laws regulating large corporations be written by the very companies they seek to regulate.

Foodborne illnesses like salmonella, e. Coli and listeria rarely come from small farms in which animals have access to sunshine, fresh food and room to roam. They come from feedlots where cattle are crammed together like sardines standing in their own feces; where chickens live out their short, miserable little lives in cages not even large enough for them to turn around in… And they are compounded by the fact that these companies can sell food products, which are then processed and repackaged by another company, distributed by another company, and sold by another without us ever knowing where the original food came from. The government’s answer to this dilemma, you would think, could be as simple as requiring processed food makers to keep records of where their ingredients come from, and to make that information public. Instead, they’ve managed to come up with NAIS, a system that would have a small farmer fill out mountains of paperwork whenever an animal died in the field (imagine how difficult it is to report on this when you have a few hundred acres with hungry foxes/wolves/coyotes and sheep that are popping out lambs left and right during spring), or whenever one was eaten by the family, given to the neighbor…

The small American farmer is under attack from all sides. He is under attack from the government with asinine, bureaucratic mandates; he is under attack by big agribusiness, which receives subsidies from the government to keep their prices low, thus destroying the inner workings of a free market; and they are under attack by everyday Americans, most of whom are unable to afford, or refuse to pay the extra cost of fresh food grown by local farmers.

The bleak future of small-scale farmers in America is at the crux of my worries about food safety. Food recalls worry me more than other recalls because none of us can survive without food. And as we consolidate our food supply into the hands of a few agribusiness giants, these recalls will continue to happen at an ever-increasing rate. Yet, as much as it upsets me to post them, I will continue to do so – month after month, week after week, day after day…

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Everett Sizemore is the owner and Editor of US Recall News: http://www.usrecallnews.com. He is dedicated to educating people about consumer safety, social activism and corporate responsibility by bringing information to Americans about the products they use every day.

4 thoughts on “I Wish I Didn’t Have to Publish So Many Food Recalls

  1. Steve,

    You evidently have NOT read ANY of the views of small livestock operators as to their problems with NAIS. It will NOT stop disease, it will NOT make your food safer, it actually will NOT do most all the things that we are being told it will do. It WILL cost a LOT of $$, it will put most small farmers out of business and it WILL assure that YOU get to eat meat products that are highly questionable. England and Australia both have similar programs and BOT programs are a shambles. Millions of head of livestock cannot be located, records are lost and misfiled, tracking is often impossible (save for the “old fashioned” paper trails that are still being used and have been used for MANY decades). I also doubt that you would enter into a contract with the government that states you are now a “shareholder” of a “premise” (legally defining you as an operator of a “property”/premise who’s ownership has not yet been decided). You also sign up allowing governmental inspection at any time without notification. This also becomes an un recorded lien on your “premise”. This is all necessary to get into the NAIS program to receive a PIN. There is much more involved here but I hope you get the drift of MY feelings. Do some research!

  2. What a lot of people don’t understand is that the processing plants are not to make food for people. They are built to be a money making machine, factory. This means all of corporations will use the cheapest way to make a product to gain the most profit for the stockholders of the corporation. What this means they buy almost out of date meat, meat from out of USA, any and all products that are on the cheap almost spoiled in some cases. And it is all legal in this country of ours. At least as some above have mentioned, in buying from a small farmer you know who you are getting your food from, you know it is fresh, you may even know what has been used to produce the product in some cases. You mentioned Joel Salatin he seems to have a good hold on what is going on in the
    American food chain. I don’t know him personally but have read some of his books and agree with much of what he says.

  3. Steve,

    I share your concerns about the safety of our meat products. I too would like to see better regulation of this industry. But I want to see it done in such a way that differentiates between the average CAFO and the average small beef farm. I would like to see fruit and vegetable produce safety improved as well. But to ask a farmer with a few acres of mixed produce to jump through costly and difficult hoops just to sell a head of lettuce or a pumkin at a farmer’s market is absurd.

    What we have to understand here is that the food borne illnesses are often not starting at the farm, but at the feed lot or the processing plant where food products from many different suppliers are being sorted, packaged, mixed, repackaged and shipped out around the country with no way of knowing where it originated from. Tracking the cow to the slaughterhouse is one thing, but how is NAIS going to help us when that cow is mixed with hundreds of other cows to make ground beef that is then sent to supermarkets and sold under the supermaket brand name? It’s like trying to put a tag on water from one creek and tracking that same water as it flows down to meet larger streams, which run into rivers, which pour into lakes and oceans. There has to be a better way. For starters, invite small farmers to the table in Washington instead of just listening to the concerns of corporate agribusinessmen.

  4. Really? As a consumer of beef and meat products I am 100% in favor of the NAIS program being mandated to all livestock producers. from a food safety and disease prevention aspect I think the NIAS is pure genius! Australia and other countries (even third world countries) have this type of system in place wy not the U.S. if we care at all about our food supply.

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