Safe at any scale? Food scares, food regulation, and scaled alternatives
- 971 Downloads
The 2006 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, traced to bagged spinach from California, illustrates a number of contradictions. The solutions sought by many politicians and popular food analysts have been to create a centralized federal agency and a uniform set of production standards modeled after those of the animal industry. Such an approach would disproportionately harm smaller-scale producers, whose operations were not responsible for the epidemic, as well as reduce the agroecological diversity that is essential for maintaining healthy human beings and ecosystems. Why should responses that only reinforce the problem be proffered? We use the framework of accumulation and legitimation to suggest corporate and government motives for concealing underlying problems and reinforcing powerful ideologies of individualism, scientism, and centralizing authority. Food safety (or the illusion of safety) is being positioned to secure capital rather than public welfare. We propose implementing the principle of subsidiarity as a more democratic and decentralized alternative. Because full implementation of this principle will be resisted by powerful interests, some promising intermediate steps include peer production or mass collaboration as currently applied to disease prevention and surveillance, as well as studying nascent movements resisting current food safety regulations.
KeywordsAccumulation E. coli Food safety Legitimation Peer production Scale Spinach scare Subsidiarity
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- E. coli
Escherichia coli [serotype O157:H7]
United States Food and Drug Administration
United States Government Accountability Office
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point
United States National Institutes of Health
- Akst, D. 2006. Big farms will keep spinach on the table. The New York Times, October 15: 3–4.Google Scholar
- Andre, M. 2007. Comment in response to Pecarich, F. 2007. Hiding the ball on E. coli: What we now know about spinach and other leafy vegetables grown in California. California Progress Report, March 23. http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2007/03/hiding_the_ball.html. Accessed 27 May 2007.
- Bailey, B. 2007. E. coli that tainted spinach traced to San Benito County cattle ranch. San Jose Mercury News, March 23. http://www.tinyurl.com/2vefr9. Accessed 25 March 2007.
- Bailey, L.H. 1988/1915. The holy earth. Columbus, Ohio: The National United Methodist Rural Fellowship.Google Scholar
- Bailey, T.M., and P. Schantz. 1988. Trichinosis surveillance, United States, 1986. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 37 (SS–5): 1–8.Google Scholar
- Baran, P.A., and P.M. Sweezy. 1966. Monopoly capital: An essay on the American economic and social order. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
- Benbrook, C. 2005. State of science review: elevating antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing. Troy, Oregon: The Organic Center. http://www.organic-center.org/science.antiox.php?action=view&report_id=3. Accessed 7 May 2007.
- Benbrook, C. 2006a. State of science review: Published research on the sources and spread of E. coli O157. Troy, Oregon: The Organic Center. http://www.organic-center.org/science.safety.php?action=view&report_id=61. Accessed 20 March 2007.
- Benbrook, C. 2006b. Critical issue report: E. coli O157:H7 frequently asked questions. Troy, Oregon: The Organic Center. http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/e_coli_final.pdf. Accessed 17 February 2007.
- Benkler, Y. 2006. The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Bonnano, A. 2004. Globalization, transnational corporations, the state and democracy. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 11 (1): 37–48.Google Scholar
- Brady, D. 2006. The organic myth: pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market. Business Week, October 16. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005001.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_top+story. Accessed 17 October 2006.
- Buckham, E. 2006. Ag Stewardship Committee holds state meat inspection meeting. MIFFS Memo 12 (3): 12. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Food and Farming Systems.Google Scholar
- California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). 2007. CCOF urges organic participation in leafy green product marketing agreement. Press release, January 22. http://www.ccof.org/pr012207.php. Accessed 23 January 2007.
- California Department of Health Services (CDHS) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 2007. Investigation of an Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with Dole pre-packaged spinach. Sacramento and Alameda, California: CDHS and FDA. http://www.tinyurl.com/28lf2k. Accessed 25 March 2007.
- Carson, K.A. 2007. Studies in mutualist political economy. Charleston, South Carolina: Book Surge Publishing.Google Scholar
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2006. Multistate outbreak of E. coli 0157 infections, November-December 2006. December 7. http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2006/december/120706.htm. Accessed 14 December 2006.
- Chediak, M. 2007. How safe is your food? Orlando Sentinel, February 27. http://www.tinyurl.com/2nmqdc. Accessed 1 March 2007.
- Chester, J. 2006. The end of the internet? The Nation (online). http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060213/chester. Accessed 11 April 2007.
- Cole, W. 2007. Got raw milk? Be very quiet. Time, March 13. http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1598525,00.html. Accessed 14 March 2007.
- Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). 2007. CAFF leafy greens campaign coordinator supervised by: Executive director (with board president and legislative representative). Position description. http://www.tinyurl.com/39psje. Accessed 23 March 2007.
- Congress of the United States. 2007. Durbin, DeLauro introduce new food safety bill in wake of widening recalls. Congress of the United States, Press release. May 1. http://www.house.gov/delauro/press/2007/May/Food_Safety_Intro_05_01_07.html. Accessed 12 May 2007.
- Cone, M. and R-G Lin II. 2007. Tainted spinach tied to cattle ranch. Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2007. http://www.tinyurl.com/2pajnj. Accessed 7 May 2007.
- Cone, R.A., and E. Martin. 1998. Corporeal flows: The immune system, global economies of food, and new implications for health. In The visible woman: Imagining technologies, gender, and science, ed. P.A. Treichler, L. Cartwright, and C. Penley, 321–359. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Cuite, C., S.C. Condry, M.L. Nucci, and W.K. Hallman. 2007. Public response to the contaminated spinach recall of 2006. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University, Food Policy Institute.Google Scholar
- Cummins, R. 2006. OCA statement on nationwide outbreak of E. coli poisoning from bagged spinach. September 18. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_2407.cfm. Accessed 3 October 2006.
- Davies, F. 2007. Internet censorship growing globally. San Jose Mercury News, May 18, 2007. http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_5925661. Accessed 20 May 2007.
- DeFao, J. 2006. Speakeasy cuisine: guided by word-of-mouth, diners flock to unlicensed restaurants for good food at bargain-basement prices. San Francisco Chronicle January 22: A-1.Google Scholar
- Diez-Gonzales, F. 2006. Microbial safety of organic fruits and vegetables. NC-SARE Report. Project# LNCo3-231.Google Scholar
- Downing, J. 2006. Irradiation back on the table: Food related illnesses renew call for controversial process. The Sacramento Bee, December 19.Google Scholar
- Engel, M., and Rong-Gong Lin II. 2007. Processing may spread E. coli. Los Angles Times, January 20. http://www.tinyurl.com/22jknx. Accessed 12 May 2007.
- Federal Drug Administration (FDA) 2006. FDA statement on foodborne E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in spinach. October 6. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2006/NEW01486.html. Accessed 7 March 2007.
- Feenberg, A. 1991. Critical theory of technology. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Finz, S., and E. Allday. 2006. Spinach growers were warned about produce safety. San Francisco Chronicle September 19: A-10.Google Scholar
- Gienow, M. 2007. Raw deal: Notes from the Amish dairy underground. Baltimore City Paper, March 7. http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=13361. Accessed 3 May 2007.
- Glausiusz, J. 2007. Toxic salad: what are fecal bacteria doing on our dinner plates? Discover (April): 58–59, 74.Google Scholar
- Glencolton Farms. 2007. http://www.glencoltonfarms.com/. Accessed 28 February 2007.
- Goodnow, C. 2007. What’s safe to put in your pet’s bowl? Weeks after tainted food killed dogs and cats, trust shaken but few answers. Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 6: A-1.Google Scholar
- Government Accountability Office (GAO). 2005. Overseeing the US food supply: Steps to be taken to reduce overlapping inspections and related activities. Washington, DC: Government Accounting Office, GAO-05-549T.Google Scholar
- Government Accountability Office (GAO). 2007. Federal oversight of food safety: High risk designation can bring needed attention to a fragmented system. No. GAO-07-569CG. Washington, DC: GAO.Google Scholar
- Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Q. Hoare and G. Nowell-Smith (trans. and eds.). New York: International Publishers.Google Scholar
- Green, E. 2001. Gone for good? Los Angeles Times January 3.Google Scholar
- Guthman, J. 2004. Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Ha, A. 2007. Settlements made in E. coli outbreak. Hollister Free Lance, April 24. http://www.hollisterfreelance.com/news/contentview.asp?c=212333. Accessed 10 May 2007.
- Habermas, J. 1973. Legitimation crisis. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Harvard Law Review. 2007. Reforming the food safety system: What if consolidation isn’t enough? Harvard Law Review 120 (5): 1345–1366.Google Scholar
- Henderson, D. 2007. Chicken from China? Questionable farming practices fuel skepticism of US plan to import poultry. The Boston Globe, May 9. http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2007/05/09/chicken_from_china/. Accessed 10 May 2007.
- Hirsch, J. 2007. Spinach sales still struggling as a result of E. coli scare. Los Angeles Times, March 23. http://www.tinyurl.com/296z6p. Accessed 25 March 2007.
- Katz, S. 2006. The revolution will not be microwaved: Inside America’s underground food movements. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green.Google Scholar
- Kita, P. 2007. FDA builds on history, tangles with food-safety politics. AXcess News, April 17. http://www.axcessnews.com/user.php/articles/show/id/10795. Accessed 23 April 2007.
- Kolko, G. 1963. The triumph of conservatism: A reinterpretation of American history, 1900–1916. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
- Krebs, A.V. 1991. The corporate reapers. Washington, DC: Essential Books.Google Scholar
- Lavigne, P. 2006. Is organic food the real deal? The Dallas Morning News, August 19. http://www.tinyurl.com/25nlsj. Accessed 20 September 2006.
- Levenstein, H.A. 1988. Revolution at the table: The transformation of the American diet. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Major, M. 2007. Highly perishable. Progressive Grocer January 1: 50–59.Google Scholar
- Marler Clark. 2007. Son of woman killed by E. coli testifies: Legislature must go further than industry-led marketing agreement. http://www.tinyurl.com/2anfks. Accessed 7 April 2007.
- Mattera, P. 2004. USDA Inc.: How agribusiness has hijacked regulatory policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, DC: Agribusiness Accountability Initiative and Good Jobs First Corporate Research Project.Google Scholar
- McDonald, K.L., M.I. Cohen, and P.A. Blake. 1986. The changing epidemiology of adult botulism in the United States. American Journal of Epidemiology 124 (5): 794–799.Google Scholar
- Moffi, L. 2001. On biocultural diversity. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press.Google Scholar
- Nabhan, G.P. 2004. Why some like it hot. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
- Nabhan, G.P. 1997. Cultures of habitat: On nature, culture, and story. Washington, DC: Counterpoint.Google Scholar
- National Food Safety and Toxicology Center (NFSTC). 2004. First world congress on organic food – proceedings, March 29–31, 2004. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University.Google Scholar
- Nazarea, V.D. 2005. Heirloom seeds and their keepers. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
- Nazarea, V.D. 1998. Cultural memory and biodiversity. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
- Nestle, M. 2002. Food politics. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Nestle, M. 2006. The E. coli outbreak demonstrates why America’s food safety system needs an overhaul. The Mercury News, October 22. http://www.foodpolitics.com/pdf/spinachfal.pdf. Accessed 25 October 2006.
- O’Connor, James 1973. The fiscal crisis of the state. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
- Organic Trade Association (OTA). 2006. E. coli facts. http://www.ota.com/organic/foodsafety/ecoli.html. Accessed 8 October 2006.
- Orr, D. 1991. What is education for? In Context (Winter), 52.Google Scholar
- Palmer, S. 2007. The E. coli outbreak – lettuce learn a lesson. Today’s Dietitian 9 (1): 28.Google Scholar
- Pimentel, D. 2006. State of science review: Impacts of organic farming on the efficiency of energy use in agriculture: Troy, Oregon: The Organic Center. http://www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/ENERGY_SSR.pdf. Accessed 14 May 2007.
- Planck, N. 2006. Leafy green sewage. New York Times, September 21: A-31.Google Scholar
- Pollack, A. 2007. Scientists look to vaccines in the war on E. coli. New York Times. May 1: F-1.Google Scholar
- Pollan, M. 2006. The vegetable-industrial complex. New York Times Magazine October 15: 17.Google Scholar
- Reardon, T., J-M. Codron, L. Busch, J. Bingen, and C. Harris. 2001. Global change in agrifood grades and standards: Agribusiness strategic responses in developing countries. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review 2 (3/4): 421–435.Google Scholar
- Safe Food Act of 2007. H.R. 1148. http://www.thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h1148. Accessed 21 May 2007.
- Sander, L. 2006. Source of deadly E. coli is found at California ranch. The New York Times, October 13: A-20.Google Scholar
- Schlosser, E. 2006. Has politics contaminated the food supply? The New York Times, December 11: A-27.Google Scholar
- Schmit, J. 2006a. Spinach producers take financial hit. USA Today, September 19. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2006-09-19-spinach-usat_x.htm. Accessed 12 March 2007.
- Schmit, J. 2006b. Fresh Express leads the pack in produce safety. USA Today, October 22. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2006-10-22-fresh-express-usat_x.htm. Accessed 9 April 2007.
- Siegel, M. 2006. The truth about the E. coli outbreak. Salon.com, September 22. http://www.aslom.co/news/feature/2006/09/22/e_coli/index_np.html. Accessed 8 October 2006.
- Steele, J.W. 2006. Tainted spinach could aid Neogen. Lansing State Journal, September 27: 1A.Google Scholar
- Surowiecki, J. 2004. The wisdom of crowds: Why the many Are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and sations. New York: Little Brown.Google Scholar
- Tapscott, D., and A.D. Williams. 2006. Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. New York: Portfolio.Google Scholar
- Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) and Tohono O’odham Community College. nd. Community attitudes toward traditional Tohono O’odham foods. http://www.tocaonline.org/Programs/Food%205system/images/usdareport.ptf. Accessed December 29, 2004.
- Waltner-Toews, D. 1996. An agroecosystem perspective on foodborne illnesses. Ecosystem Health 2 (3): 177–185.Google Scholar
- Weinraub, J. 2003. Chicken feed politics: Who pulled a fast one on the organic industry? The Washington Post, March 19: F1.Google Scholar
- Whitney, J. 2007. Organic erosion: Will the term organic still mean anything when it’s adopted whole hog by behemoths such as Wal-Mart? San Francisco Chronicle, January 28: CM-13.Google Scholar
- Winner, L. 1986. The whale and the reactor: A search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Withers, D. 2007. Grower details his side of outbreak link. The Salinas Californian. March 17. http://www.tinyurl.com/2kcthz. Accessed 25 March 2007.
- Wolfe, A. 1977. The limits of legitimacy: Political contradictions of contemporary capitalism. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Wood, D.B. 2006. E. coli cases prompt calls to regulate farm practices. The Christian Science Monitor, September 18. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0918/p02s01-usgn.html. Accessed 30 September 2006.
- Wright, L. 2007. Slaughterhouse thrive. Burlington Free Press, March 18. http://www.tinyurl.com/2ufncg. Accessed 2 May 2007.