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bad eggs

So there has apparently been some sort of egg recall in recent days, thanks to an "outbreak of salmonella". My first response, of course, was: "what? Isn't salmonella always in eggs, and that's why we can't eat cookie dough anymore?!" When it had become clear to me that the current situation is even above and beyond what has become acceptable for the contamination of eggs in our factory farming situation, I began to wonder if there was some way that the big-agriculture lobby would turn this situation to their advantage. Why, naturally!

Various parties are now advocating for tighter food safety laws: on eggs specifically, and across the board. There is even a push make farmers vaccinate their chickens against salmonella. Now, I'm not against either of those ideas in principal, if they're applied reasonably based on scientific evidence; but I also see a pattern in legislation that is introduced in response to food-safety scares making business more difficult for small farms—while containing loopholes that let giant operations continue business as usual. After all, it's not like the farms whose eggs were recalled were even complying with existing law.

In general, we in the United States want things to be safe and regular. That means that there is a prejudice in favor of big farms: we imagine that, once effective legislation is in place, we'll be better served by a handful of humongous egg-factories—no doubt gleaming white and staffed by professionals in scrubs and hair-nets—which are watched over carefully by government overseers. Far better that then to let any roadside farm sell its own eggs, from hens kept in a yard with dirt on the ground! Never fear, because Florida food safety officials want to assure you that "basic protections must apply to everyone regardless of size." As spokeswoman Lisa Lochridge tells us, a salmonella bacterium "not going to choose a 150-acre farm over a 5-acre farm." Even "fourth generation farmer" John W. Boyd Jr., blogging at Huffington Post in favor of small and mid-sized farms, agrees: "If there is one advantage of consolidation, it is that it makes the job of inspectors easier. Since there are only a few hundred facilities producing the bulk of our eggs, making regular visits to each of them should not be too difficult."

How about, instead of making the government keep dishonest factory farmers from poisoning us, we only buy produce from farmers we trust?! It doesn't seem that complicated to me, and it doesn't require millions of dollars to be spent in regulation by the government and in compliance by farmers. Paul and Neil wouldn't want my family to get sick, (a fact that has been recognized by Boston's news media!) and if we should happen to have trouble with the salmonella... we know where they live!

The argument about the bacterium not caring about the size of the farm also misses another important point. Just a small handful of farms have been so far affected by this recall (note as well that it will not be related in each case: they all messed up individually) and yet millions of eggs nationwide have needed to be recalled. If something goes wrong at Chip-In, you're only going to sicken a little bit of eastern Middlesex County.

It seems to me that there ought to be a saying about allowing just a handful of producers to supply all the nation's eggs... something about putting all of your eggs in one... naw, too obvious.


Ironically, our entire family has been sickened off and on over the past two weeks by something with symptoms very much like those of salmonella...

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