, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 177-181
Date: 22 Jan 2008

The illusion of control: industrialized agriculture, nature, and food safety

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Abstract

I explore the role of nature in the agrifood system and how attempts to fit food production into a large-scale manufacturing model has lead to widespread outbreaks of food borne illness. I illustrate how industrial processing of leafy greens is related to the outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 associated with spinach in the fall of 2006. I also use this example to show how industry attempts to create the illusion of control while failing to address weaknesses in current processing systems. The leafy greens industry has focused efforts on sterilizing the growing environment and adopting new technologies, while neglecting to change the concentrated structure of processing systems. Repeated breakdowns in these systems illustrate a widening fault line between attempted and failed control of nature in industrial food production.