Big Government, Big Business, and artisanal food

by Walter Olson on September 22, 2007

Alex Cockburn a few years back, quoted by Jacob Sullum at Reason “Hit and Run” (Sept. 17):

A lot of the history of food regulation in this country has turned out to be a way to finish off small, quality producers by demanding they invest in whatever big ticket items the USDA happens to be in love with at the time; said love objects usually turning out to be whatever the big food processors are using. That’s the reason why it’s hard to get decent sausages or hams….The big packers and processing plants get to participate directly in the writing of the laws that set the standard practices that the inspectors march out to enforce on all the little producers not part of the Meat Syndicate.

{ 4 comments }

1 Jack Payne 09.22.07 at 5:09 pm

True, the big food processors march to a different drummer. I keep waiting for one of them to trip themselve up, by putting a green label on a canned meat–something like that. But, alas, they neve seem to. And, you’re right, they do have the ear of Mother Hen Government.

I’ve been writing on con men for the past 45 years, and some of Big Foods’ tactics are very similar.

2 Ted 09.23.07 at 5:22 am

Cheese, too. Pasteurization requirements keeps some of the best raw cheese out of America.

It doesn’t begin to compare to cost of Sarbanes-Oxley in creating a barrier to entry.

3 OBQuiet 09.24.07 at 1:12 pm

I’ll have to check with her later but my wife worked for the USDA and did some research on local,raw Mexican cheeses(your tax dollar at work).
The list of dangerous, active bacteria in them was scary.

It may have been a coincidence, but while my wife was doing this study, a coworker of mine visited Mexico and told me just how wonderful the local cheeses were. She had just gotten back work after a week at home sick as a dog following her vacation.

I’m not the microbiologist, but there is a reason we pasteurize dairy products. If there are safe alternatives, ok, but you cannot just dispense with pasteurization.

4 Deoxy 09.25.07 at 10:03 am

OBQuiet,

I ate raw mexican cheese literally for years at a local food establishment… and then it was no longer available.

No one complained about getting sick from it, it just had to go away.

The list of dangerous, active bacteria in many foods is scary, but people manage to not notice, generally speaking…

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