How Safe is Factory Processed Food?

Posted by Lakshmi Gopal on Sun, Jul 24, 2011  
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Food has, in today’s world, become a dangerous business. The food scare over E coli earlier this year hit farmers in Germany and shook consumers across Europe. The food business is today anonymous, international, built to scale, and hence profitable.

We are absolutely addicted to this model of producing huge quantities of food at the lowest possible cost. The profits-driven food industry has all the outwardly trappings of hygiene, with white coats and plastic gloves on the production line. It does not care if it compromises public health. Driven by the economics of mass production, food regulations, designed for environmental safety and public health, end up promoting this fatal model of growing food.

In the year 2005, avian influenza hit chicken. The world went on a rampage, killing chickens and wild birds to contain the deadly virus.

In 2008, China was racked by milk contaminated with melanine, which killed babies.

In 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) virus, formerly named swine flu hit the world.

In 2010, the US was hit by salmonella in popular brands of peanut butter.

Across the developing world, pigs, important sources of food for the poor, were slaughtered. However, gigantic factories were not brought to book for  their toxics-rich practices.

Investigations do not lead anywhere simply because we not looking where it matters. The fact is that something is seriously wrong with the way the world is producing food and even more with the way it is managing its regulations for safety.

The modern factory uses everything from antibiotics and hormones to biocides and vaccines to grow poultry, cattle and pigs in highly concentrated and unhealthy environments. The nature of business has never been questioned.

Debatable chicken-manufacturing practices are leaving the birds susceptible to diseases and consumers vulnerable to mutated viruses.

The problem is that the focus is on good manufacturing practices and not on good health practices. These are not the same things. Therefore, bad food business thrives, while health suffers.

It may be a good idea to incentivise food grown naturally and locally by small producers. It also means that consumers pay more for food — or subsidise farmers for growing healthy and safe food.

A thought to chew on:

'Food is not a commodity like others... like color TVs. We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves.' - Bill Clinton at UN World Food Day, 16 October 2008


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