Food Recalls – Why They Could Mean The End Of Real Food As We Know It

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For a long time I believed that with every food recall story in the media, we’d see more and more people start taking notice of what’s going on in the food system – that food produced in factory environments is harming our health because everything is completely backward and geared toward the reign of big food and corporate agriculture – and that sustainable agriculture would start to become the order of the day.

Food recalls are not doing the job they should – they are not waking people up fast enough. The more we continue to support big agriculture’s products by ignoring these problems, the more control will be given to entities (the government) and corporations (Big Pharma and Big Agriculture – companies like Tyson, Smithfield, Swift, and Cargill who control over 80 percent of the food sold in our country) to dictate the future of food growth, production, sales, and health (or lack thereof).

The reality is, nothing will change until major modifications occur in the way we produce food.  Stepping up regulations and laws will not change the recall situation or food-borne illnesses problem.

Every time food recalls happen, irrational and uneducated parties and spokespeople start rousing the masses to stop buying certain foods – tomatoes (2008), beef (2008), pork (2008), eggs (2010), and a breaking report today from Walmart – 380,000 pounds of deli meat (2010).

Recalls are becoming more numerous and people aren’t understanding the reason why – they believe it’s due to lax standards on “food safety” measures and laws. This is only a very small component of what is going on. The real culprit is not eggs or meat or anything else in and of itself – the cause is the farming methods and manufacturing processes used in the growth and production of these foods.

Where is the recall food coming from?

In every instance of these recalls, where has the food come from? That’s right, say it with me: BIG AGRICULTURE  corporations who are “supposed” to have their act together. How often do you hear about a small-time, sustainable farmer using traditional farming practices getting in trouble and having to “recall” their products? It does happen rarely, but realize that most of the time it does, those farmers are not using truly sustainable practices.

Beef recall

Today we read that Walmart is recalling 380,000 pounds of deli meats from its shelves.  Where does this meat come from? Factory farms. Case in point – remember the world’s largest beef recall to date…143 million pounds…in February of 2008 where downer cattle were being discovered on feedlots? These cattle would have, under normal circumstances, been taken away from the facility and destroyed. But they were being processed like every other animal on the facility (I say facility, because factory farms, like where these animals live, are not fit to be termed as “farms”) and processed through as meat for consumption.

Okay, I shouldn’t even have to elaborate about why this scenario is so horrific on so many levels…but humor me. I’m going to anyway to inform and educate those who don’t know or realize what’s going on here.

For starters, those cattle should not be living the way they do – even the ones that were not categorized as “downer” cattle. Those that made it through and were passed by USDA inspectors and deemed “acceptable” or “healthy” for consumption weren’t fit for consumption either. The reason why is that ANY animal born and raised on a feedlot – which is where the MAJORITY of our meat comes from – has experienced an existence that is so far removed from what it should be living, the details of it are staggeringly awful:

Feed Cattle are ruminants and should not be eating corn, soy, grains, and many other substances they are fed – they should be eating grass as that is what their digestive tracts are designed to process. When they eat these substances, their bodies grow faster and bigger, but they become unhealthy (think pathogenic bacteria like E. coli), and then farmers administrate antibiotics to control disease and illness. What results is super-resistant bacteria, and the death of all good bacteria. This is transferred over to humans when we consume the meat and helps us to become resistant too.

Hormones Most conventional cattle are given genetically-engineered growth hormones to speed up their growth process and get them ready for slaughter sooner. Some companies are beginning to ban growth hormones, but we are still a long ways away from this becoming common practice. Growth hormones in meat have been linked to the following health problems: disruption of  human hormone balance which affects development and growth, interference with reproduction, and development of various cancers such as prostate, breast, or colon cancer.

Antibiotics Conventional cattle receive regular doses of antibiotics to combat illnesses originating as a result of unsanitary conditions and the fact that they consume grain, which causes pathogenic bacteria like E. coli to develop in the digestive tracts of the animals. As stated above, antibiotics lead to resistant pathogenic strain bacteria in animals and humans, and the environment.

Pesticides and GMOs Cattle eat feed that has been treated with herbicide and pesticides all through its growing cycle, not to mention the DNA of these plants used for feed has often undergone alteration in a laboratory to change its basic gene structure so it can be resistant to the chemicals used on it to ward off pests.

Pesticides have been shown repeatedly to be toxic to the human body – it can kill all types of living organisms by attacking the nervous system – so how could it be harmless or cause negligable harm to humans and the environment? The Daily Green presented a report illustrating the harmful effects pesticides have on the health of young children. Because their bodies are smaller and still developing, they are more vulnerable, their metabolisms process these chemicals faster, and they have a greater overall negative impact. The damage? Disruption to hormonal, brain, and nervous system health, just to name a few.

The consumption of GMOs has been linked to widespread allergic reactions and problems in individuals – from soy, corn, and grains. It has also been shown to cause liver, reproductive, endocrine, and other health issues, as well as infant mortality rate (in laboratory rats). For more information about the dangers of GMOs, visit The Seeds of Deception.

Egg recall

One of the worst aspects of this egg recall (eggs originating from Wright County Egg farm in Iowa – one of the country’s largest producers – here’s the whole story) is that the issue is the salmonella – so, there’s salmonella in chicken meat from facilities that produce chickens…which provide the majority of supermarkets and restaurants with chicken meat. So why is it that the FDA apparently has no problem with that? If we were to look into just what causes salmonella in chickens, the abominable conditions of the facilities where these chickens live would become public knowledge. And then not many people would agree to buy these products. Well, it’s easy to see what the motivation is here.

If you’ve ever watched any food documentaries or read any books on food politics, you’ll notice that big food corporations and farms repeatedly decline to be interviewed or allow reporters or cameras inside their facilities. Most small-scale, sustainable farmers and food producers WELCOME the opportunity for people to come and tour their farm or facility during business operating hours and in some cases, after hours. Why, you may ask…why the wall of secrecy?

Radiation to the rescue

Now there is a threat of the FDA conducting a mass “sterilization”, or pasteurization of all eggs on the market to “eliminate” the problem. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at what’s already being done to spinach and tomatoes, lettuce, and other foods. The reasoning is that this process will kill E. coli and salmonella and make these foods safe once again for consumption.

As usual, the FDA and other authorities have employed short-sighted methods and are completely ignoring the cause of the pathogenic bacteria that is making consumers sick – the abhorrent conditions in facilities where food is raised and grown. But since these corporations often refuse to allow reporters and cameras in their facilities, they are allowed to continue producing food in ghastly conditions. This is exactly their goal.

How can you possibly get salmonella or E. coli from vegetables? Good question – the answer lies in runoff contamination which pollutes our soil and water from factory farms that raise animals for meat, or in food preparation environments – factories, kitchens, etc. where these foods are allowed to cross-contaminate on cooking and  cutting surfaces, and on machinery.

From Web M.D., “We’re very pleased to see one more tool that we can use to have what’s a nutritious, good product become even safer,” said Robert Brackett, senior vice president and chief science and regulatory affairs officer for the FDA. Sources like Web M.D.  impress that “irradiating spinach and iceberg lettuce is safe and won’t affect overall dietary nutrition, according to the FDA, which notes that although irradiating spinach curbs vitamin A and folate levels, that doesn’t hurt total dietary intake of those nutrients. Irradiation doesn’t make food radioactive, according to background information from the CDC”.

Other medical sources report that irradiation is, in fact, harmful to health. According to Medical News Today, “Food irradiation can result in loss of nutrients, for example vitamin E levels can be reduced by 25% after irradiation and vitamin C by 5-10%. This is compounded by the longer storage times of irradiated foods, and by loss of nutrients during cooking, which can result in the food finally eaten by the consumer to contain little more than ‘empty calories’. This is potentially damaging to the long and short-term health of consumers, particularly for sections of society already failing to obtain adequate nutrition.”

Irradiation of foods does not eliminate dangerous toxins which have already been created by bacteria prior to irradiation. “In some cases, such as C. botulinum, it is the toxin produced by the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself, which poses the health hazard.”

When foods are irradiated, the chemical composition of the food has been noted to change and can cause mutations in bacteria which, like antibiotics, can lead to the development super-resistant strain bacteria.

What else? You should be prepared to pay a bit more for irradiated food, according to Brackett. About 3 to 5 cents more per pound. So not only is the food you are eating exposed to radiation and can harm your health, but you are expected to pay for it on top of all that? This is what I like to call insanity.

According to Natural News, “The FDA, you see, will seize upon each contamination event as a leverage point from which to ratchet up its food sterilization agenda, and the agency won’t stop until every scrap of fresh food sold at grocery stores is either pasteurized, fumigated or irradiated”.

How can food recalls work to fix the problem?

The answer is simple, but not easy. I’ll use the analogy of wielding the power of nutrition and nature to heal our bodies and health – if we changed our farming practices and methods back to the ways used by traditional farmers through the ages, we would heal the land, the creatures, and our bodies of many of the modern illnesses, problems, and scourges that plague our modern feedlots and factory farm environments. And I won’t pretend things would be perfect; there is no such thing as perfect health. But we would observe a vast improvement in the way things are.

We can use science and technology to our benefit – by taking advantage of modern inventions and discoveries like electricity, cold storage, sanitation, proper storage containment and facilities, and combine it with the best nature has to offer: real food that has not been damaged, processed, heat treated, denatured, deodorized, treated with chemicals, and extruded or otherwise altered by mechanization devices and processes. Just as big pharma has overtaken medical practice in treating symptoms, not causes, with drugs, procedures, and surgery, modern agricultural approaches seek to stop symptoms, not eliminate the issues that cause the problem in the first place.

Modern agriculture needs to heal itself by returning to tried-and-true methods used for thousands of years – and eliminate all these modern problems that exist due to the mechanization, standardization, deodorization, heat-treating, processing of foods which contain enzymes, nutrients, co-factors, amino acids, fats, proteins, probiotics (friendly bacteria), and prebiotics which aid in the digestion, assimilation, and nourishment of food in the body.

Buy from your local farmers, buy sustainable, know what you are eating and how it is produced:

  • eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • organ meats
  • healthy fats like butter, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, tallow, and lard
  • sustainable or organically-grown produce – fruits, vegetables, legumes
  • whole and sprouted/soaked/fermented sustainable grains

If we can learn one important thing from food recalls, it’s that our [humans] way of packaging, processing, and making things readily available and more convenient anytime we want or need will never supercede nature’s innate ability to know how and what we need to maintain health.

So let’s put the focus where it needs to be – alter the face of industrial food processes, and recognize and embrace the important  health benefits of producing real food as nature intended.  We don’t need to step-up food regulation and safety laws, we need to acknowledge that food recalls happen due to these processes and mechanisms we’ve put into place – those systems we have come to believe are useful and even infallible, and which have ushered in the growth and development of harmful bacteria and harms to human health and the environment, on a scale which humanity has never before seen in history.

Want to know more?

Huge FDA recall of 10,000 products – another wakeup call to avoid processed foods!

Is cheap food really cheap?

The hidden costs of industrial food

Is hunger really a matter of willpower?

11 healthy and nutrient-dense foods at a glance

Nina Planck talks candidly about industrial food

Want to do more?

The time to act is now – oppose Bill S.510 – The Food Safety Modernization Act

6 Comments

  • August 26, 2010 - 1:25 AM | Permalink

    Raine, I would like everyone in congress and every state legislature to read this post. You have really shown how useless and dangerous radiating food is. I agree, I think the point of this recall is to panic the public into accepting irradiation of all eggs. Your brilliant point about salmonella in chickens shows how arbitrary and irrational this created crisis actually is.

    I find it sickening how Big Ag created the salmonella situation with their filthy,cruel practices, and are using the problem they created as a way to get their servants at the FDA to destroy real food. Big Ag cannot tolerate real food,because nobody would buy the dead stuff they sell if people understood the benefits of real food.

  • John Smith
    August 26, 2010 - 9:23 AM | Permalink

    This is kind of off topic but the picture of the perfect looking box of eggs at the top made me think about this. I recently started getting my eggs from a local farmer who has real free-range hens. When most people think of eggs they think of something like in the picture above: A nice pretty box of white and or brown eggs that look perfect and are all exactly the same shape and size.

    When I got my first dozen from the farmer, I was a little surprised. None of the eggs looked alike. They were all brown, but that’s where the similarities ended. Some were little, some were big, the shells were not uniform looking, and there was even a bit of blood in one that I cracked open.

    Immediately though I realized that these eggs were far more natural than anything I’d been used to getting in the grocery store, even the so-called “free range organic” eggs. The eggs you get in the store are sorted so they all look exactly the same, and they shine light through the shells in order to eliminate those that may contain blood. That’s just as unnatural as irradiating the eggs to make them “safe” for consumption. I’ll take my true free-range, mottled, smallish-largish eggs with an occasional spot of blood over the artificial product sold in the grocery store any day.

    I completely agree that the government is the cause of our food problems rather than the solution. They give cover to industrialized agricultural companies making them less answerable to the consumer. If the government would just get out of the way the markets would work and those companies incapable of producing safe and healthy products would be put out of business. Government in general is a farce and it’s about time people realize that we either take care of ourselves, or we submit to some arbitrary authority and relinquish our rights and desires.

  • August 26, 2010 - 9:41 AM | Permalink

    Stanley – I have sent a message to one of my local representatives, and I’ll be sending the same message to more of them this week. We have to stand up and speak out about this problem, nothing will change if we don’t and things will only continue to become more acute. Support local agricultural efforts that use sustainable practices, be a voice in your community and spread the word through any means possible – blog, e-mail lists, contacting reps and congressmen and women, networking with people who want to be active and make changes. It starts and ends with us, if we don’t start a revolution, no one will.

    John – thanks for sharing your comments about the eggs. It’s so true, all of what you said. I would much rather have my pasture-raised, ungraded eggs because at least I know they are real and natural. All of this regulation, irradiation, pasteurization, standardization, grading, deodorization, and heat processing is never going to improve our situation.

  • August 26, 2010 - 11:32 AM | Permalink

    Raine, I agree. If we do not do something,we will lose the very ability to have real food. Big Ag will radiate, sterilize, poison, and kill the life in all food. And the government will force all food producers to do the same. This is the most important issue of all, because nothing is as important as what we eat. You know just as well as I do that a good diet means good health and freedom from disease, which would cause all the industries that live off the sickness of the American people to go broke.

    Those of us who understand the food issue should contact our representatives, and try to see them in person. If they understand that they and their families are also being exploited, they will take action.

  • NourishedMom
    August 29, 2010 - 10:22 PM | Permalink

    Oh come on, how else are we supposed to feed all the worthless mouths? (unfortunate sarcasm)

    Great article, as always!

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