It is difficult to escape the snares of apathy. Many times, we only care about the things that affect us. Well, this article is about something that affects each and every one of us – Food. Chipotle’s recent E.coli outbreak caused mild hysteria that was abated by offering free burritos. Usually, we think organic food is safer. However, even organic foods have often been recalled for bacterial contamination. Whole Foods has built its brand on healthy organic produce, but it recalled a brand of blue cheese earlier this week for possible bacterial contamination.
How does food contamination occur? There are many reasons, and you’ll get different answers depending on who you ask. Improper handling of food is the main issue. Simple things like washing your hands and keeping perishable foods at low temperature make a huge difference. Proper food handling should be a responsibility of both producers and consumers. However, there is a larger issue that we’re not addressing or even aware of.
Factory farming is the bane of our existence. This is a method where food and animals are reared on a large-scale, most times with the aim of maximizing profit. The reality of rearing cattle or chicken in confined areas is that disease outbreaks can occur. In order to prevent this, antibiotics are included in the animal’s diet. With respect to diet, how is that we now feed cows corn instead of grass? While corn makes the cow fatter than grass can, it also alters the acidity of the cow’s stomach. Cows are ruminants and have evolved to consume grass. An increase in the acidity of the cow’s stomach leads to ulcers. It also propagates the growth of bacteria that can withstand acidic conditions and are also resistant to the antibiotics that the cows are fed. Undetected by the farmer and consumer, the meat from these cows somehow make it to our plates. This is exactly how the lethal strain E. coli 0157:H7 became an issue. I implore you to watch the movie Food Inc. on Netflix for more information.
Knowing this information, many people decide to become vegetarians. However, I love meat. I’ve also tried giving up meat and I only lasted two weeks. What can meat-lovers and concerned citizens do about this issue? Let’s give the Food and Drug Administration the power to shut down companies that repeatedly fail sanitation tests. Let’s remove the monopoly in the food industry and return to subsistence or mid-scale farming. Let’s force food companies to be transparent about their farming and manufacturing processes. Let’s make it easier for people to choose what kind of food they want to eat