Saturday, November 14, 2009

Corporations in the Kitchen

In my neck of the woods the day has been a rainy one. You know what that means. Perfect excuse to lounge around and movie-watch. I knew that when I decided on Food, Inc., a documentary released in June 2009, I was in for more educational than entertaining fulfilment. Food, Inc. examines the U.S. food supply, it's quality, it's sources, and it's impact on consumer health, consumer rights, the environment, animals, and small business owners. The documentary addressed key issues facing consumers today. Here were a few:

1) Factory farmed meat can be dangerous and the corporations that mass produce meat can legally keep consumers in the dark on food safety.

2) The U.S. food supply is not as diverse as people may think. We have thousands and thousands of "food" products and yet a handful of multinational corporations run the show that provides these products.

3) Genetically modified foods can be found in 90% of processed foods and don't require a warning.

4) Key players in the FDA, USDA and even the Supreme Court had past employment with corporations whose investments placed profit over consumer health and safety. Such game players are now influencing policies that profoundly effect consumer rights and undermine food safety, human health, and farmer's rights.

5) Government subsidies keep junk food costs low and more affordable than nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.

6) The USDA does not have the authority to close down production sites with continuous food safety violations. A congressional bill to be named "Kevin's Law" would have given USDA such authority but it never made it to the House for a vote. Kevin was a 2 year old boy who died from ecoli in his hamburger. The company that produced this meat knew about the ecoli but waited over two weeks to recall it.

7) Food Libel laws (a.k.a. veggie libel laws) exist in 13 states to protect corporate interests and intimidate consumers who might otherwise speak out about or even remotely insinuate that their product poses a threat. Think Oprah vs. the beef industry.

The list goes on.

I found these issues to be disturbing and infuriating and yet, at the same time, the documentary was enlightening, informative, and empowering. Food, Inc. shared the story of a Virginia farmer producing meat the old-fashioned way. Cows were eating grass, chickens grazed freely, and pigs embraced what he called their "pigness." The animals were well-cared for and free of antibiotics, hormones and chemicals. And people appreciated this respect for their health so much that they invested in his business. It proved that food production for meat eaters could be health-centered, consumer-centered, and profitable.

There were many other take-aways from this movie - implications for school lunch programs, worker's rights, consumer environmental foot-prints, and a list of things people can do today to improve the food supply and their health. Food, Inc. is a documentary everyone should see and pass on.

Ok, now It's time to catch my entertaining movie of the evening :)