(Note: I originally posted this entry on February 17, 2008, to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)
Having been food poisoned on two separate occasions, I find it extraordinarily frustrating that more than 100 years after Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, people are still allowing products into the food supply that are unfit for consumption. Just in the past 18 months alone, we have seen spinach recalled due to E. coli contamination, pets dead as the result of eating foods with tainted wheat gluten from China, and now the following:
Today, the USDA has recalled 143 million pounds of beef--more than quadruple the previous largest such recall, 35 million pounds in 1999--and only then after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that revealed both rampant animal cruelty and wanton willingness to put cows that are sick or injured into the food supply when federal law explicity prohibits it (these cows are supposed to be humanely euthanized).
That's right--the Humane Society may be doing a better job at enforcing food safety laws than the government agencies whose job it is to do just that.
This horror took place at Hallmark Meat Packing's slaughter plant in Chino, California. Hallmark is a supplier to the Westland Meat Company, which in turn is the second-largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program.
The recall was announced more than two weeks after the HSUS first broke the horrible news, complete with a "hidden camera" video depicting handling methods so inhumane, you wonder how the people working there can live with themselves, much less sleep at night.
It's flabbergasting just poorly these food safety laws are being enforced. The restaurants serving old or re-cooked food are bad enough (just watch Kitchen Nightmares if you want proof), but our government agencies can't even stop a larger-scale problem until after the vast majority of the recalled beef has already been consumed (the recall is retroactive to February 1, 2006--more than two years ago). Says U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry: "This begs the question: how much longer will we continue to test our luck with weak enforcement of federal food safety regulations?"
I'll tell you how much longer: As long as people continue to believe that "Government of the people, for the people, by the people" is the same as "Big government," and fail to realize that letting corporations get away with not following long-established laws is NOT what "free enterprise" is about, we will be playing Russian Roulette with every school lunch we buy for our children, every hamburger value meal we buy, even every salad we eat.