The latest string of E. Coli outbreaks should raise serious questions
about the vulnerability of our country's food supply. While most public health
officials blame the cases on a violent strain of noxious bacteria, the corporate
food industry continues to evade its due scrutiny.
Indeed our corporate dominated food system is the real culprit in dispersing
infected spinach across the country. As of this writing the Food and Drug Administration
is still tracing the origins of the most recent E. Coli epidemic, which has
killed one person and sickened over a hundred more. The FDA's task isn't an
easy one. The path America's food travels from field to plate, is a long, unstable
journey. Not only does our food often voyage hundreds upon hundreds of miles
before it reaches our grocery store shelves, it also passes through dozens of
different hands along the way.
The fact that people on the New York are getting sick from spinach allegedly
grown in California should be telling enough of our unsustainable consumer habits,
as well as the inherent problems of our commercialized food industry. Corporate
giants like Phillip Morris and General Mills have driven out small independent
farmers. The food we eat is no longer grown close to home. If it were, the most
recent E. Coli scare would not be as widespread or as difficult to rein in.
Natural Selection Foods LLC of California is currently thought to be the originator
of last week's E. Coli eruption. Natural Selection produces spinach that is
packaged by Earthbound Organics, Dole, Green Harvest, Natural Selection Foods,
Rave Spinach, Ready Pac, Trader Joe's, among others. With such a widespread
distribution it's not hard to understand why so many people in so many different
states have been fallen ill.
But Big Food is big business. Controlling the market is profitable, even if
it puts consumers and the environment at risk. Especially if it puts us all
at risk. And there really are no good guys at the top of our corporate food
chain. Even if they are organic producers like Natural Selection Foods, which
operates 24,000 acres of certified organic farms in California, Arizona, Colorado,
Washington as well as Mexico and New Zealand. And believe me, they aren't in
it to provide us with healthy organic food: they are in it to make money and
lots of it. In 2005 alone Natural Selection Foods had revenue of almost 250,000
Perhaps this could serve as a wakeup call. Our corporate food industry is not
sustainable. It's vulnerable. Easy to be infiltrated and too expansive to oversee.
The time is now for us to turn away from corporate food and toward local food.
Find your town's food co-operative (if there isn't one, start one) and ask where
the local products are kept. Visit your area farmer's market and purchase vegetables
and fruit grown by local farmers in your region. Not only will this help build
community, it will also help ensure that future outbreaks of E. Coli (or something
even more deadly) won't find its way onto your dinner table with such ease.
Joshua Frank, author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped
Reelect George W. Bush, edits http://www.BrickBurner.org.