Red alert! Americans are concerned about food safety!

Crank up the RSS feed! The news is out that Americans are worried about the safety of their food supply.

This astonishing revelation comes to us via the Center for Food Integrity, an organization established just last year in Kansas City, Mo., "to increase consumer trust and confidence in the contemporary U.S. food system." Needless to say, they have their work cut out for them. To wit: the organization's Consumer Trust Survey, whose findings were partly released yesterday. Of those Americans surveyed:

  • More were worried about the safety of their food than about the war in Iraq or global warming.
  • Less than 20 percent strongly agreed with the statement that "government agencies are doing a good job ensuring the safety of the food we eat."

The organization — whose members are an odd amalgam of industrial farm organizations (eg American Farm Bureau Federation), suppliers (Monsanto), universities (Purdue) and government agencies (Missouri Department of Agriculture) — intends to release the full survey results at its annual meeting in October.

The lack of confidence is hardly surprising when things like today's announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture of a proposed rule to ban "downer" cattle from the food stream comes only after months of pressure. (Downer cattle are the too-sick-to-stand cattle that the USDA said didn't exist at packers until the Humane Society caught them on tape. And that the USDA chief then shrugged and said shouldn't be banned.)

And don't forget the doubts sown by the Great Pepper Salmonella Poisoning incident this summer, which officials attributed to tomatoes and startled consumers by admitting they couldn't actually track tomato shipments from import to delivery. The food recalls are too numerous to mention.

I hope that the Center for Food Integrity isn't just window dressing for industrial ag as usual. It's mission "to promote dialogue, model best practices, address issues that are important to consumers, and serve as a resource for accurate, balanced information about the U.S. food system" isn't nearly as heartening as if it aimed actually to produce safe and healthful food that's also safe for the long-term health of agriculture and the environment.

And having Wal-Mart's grocery exec Jack Sinclair as a keynote speaker at the center's upcoming annual meeting isn't a strong sign that these folks understand or care in the slightest about SOLE food, except perhaps as a marketing ploy. How can you take anything Sinclair says seriously when he contends, "Sustainability goes to the heart of everything we do at Wal-Mart”? Maybe he needs to visit his own stores.

2 Responsesto “Red alert! Americans are concerned about food safety!”

  1. Andrew says:

    this clearly IS the work of industrial agriculture. Monsanto et al. are the ones who benefit from increased "food safety regulation" (especially since they're the ones who get to write it).
    Here's Joel Salatin, the "high priest of pasture" (NY Times) on the subject:
    "Folks, most of what we know as food regulations are not about safety, they are about denying market access to the local butcher, baker, and candlestick maker by making regulatory overheads burdensome enough to eliminate embryonic competition from ever seeing the light of day. You cannot have a vibrant, community-based food system at the same time you legislate an anti-small, anti-entrepreneurial, overburdensome, capricious food regulatory system."
    For more, see the above website.

  2. Brian Clark says:

    While we don't think the onus of food safety should be placed on the consumer, we do think that an informed consumer is better able to make smart decisions about the issue, so that's why we've been producing a series of podcasts about food safety: http://cahnrsnews.wsu.edu/foodsafety/.