Saturday, September 30, 2006

Spinachgate, Chapter 6...

Great article about the spinach problem and food safety:
Critics decry modern outbreaks of foodborne illness as the alleged consequence of "factory farming." However, the demise of small family farms over the past century has coincided with a substantial reduction in foodborne illnesses. In 1900, 30 million farmers (nearly 42 percent of the country's population) lived on 5.7 million farms. By 2002, only 1.9 million (less than 1 percent of the population) Americans described farming as their primary occupation and they worked on 2.1 million farms, half of which are under 100 acres in size. Also during the 20th century, the rise of national and regional grocery chains and industrial food processors saw dramatic improvements in overall food safety. Such companies had a lot more to lose if urban dwelling consumers believed that the companies were poisoning them. Natural Selection Foods is learning this lesson now. And it must be said that more centralized food production and distribution also enabled more effective regulatory oversight. [More]
Ron Bailey, the author sees it much the way I do. In a recent Top Producer column I came out of the closet as an industrial farmer. One reason I have outgrown my fear of being seen as non-agrarian is the myth that somehow small farms were more "wholesome".

Such attributes accrue to the actions of the operator - not the techniques used in food production. And if we use real epidemiological evidence, as pointed out above, industrial is "wholesomer".

Don't get me wrong - most large scale food production struggles to match the taste and variety of home-grown. But fair is fair - it's certainly safer.

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