It’s Gotta Have Soul – Food Safety Rhetoric
By Douglas Powell | June 25, 2014
It’s gotta have soul.
Communication, cross-contamination, careful: wise words, but they lack soul.
The songs that move you, the art, the words, it speaks to your soul.
My friend Russ, aged 63, from Manhattan (Kansas) died recently while scuba diving with his wife in the Bahamas. My favorite memory is watching him dance to Sympathy for the Devil during the annual fish fry he hosted every Labor Day weekend in Manhattan, Kansas for about 300 people.
The dude had soul.
Most people talking about food safety lack relevance; they lack soul, and fail to resonate.
Since 1998, American consumers have been told to FightBac, to fight the dangerous bacteria and virus and parasites found in a variety of foods, by cooking, cleaning, chilling and separating their food. Solid advice, but not compelling.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are good for us; we should eat more. Yet fresh fruits and vegetables are one of, if not the most significant source of foodborne illness today in North America. Because fresh produce is just that – fresh, and not cooked — anything that comes into contact is a possible source of contamination. Every mouthful of fresh produce is an act of faith — especially faith in the growers — because once that E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella gets on, or inside, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts or melons, it is exceedingly difficult to remove.
In 2004, Salmonella-contaminated Roma tomatoes used in prepared sandwiches sold at Sheetz convenience stores throughout Pennsylvania sickened over 400 consumers. The FightBac people told the public that, “In all cases, the first line of defense to reduce risk of contracting foodborne illness is to cook, clean, chill and separate.”
Consumers were being told that when they stop by a convenience store and grab a ready-made sandwich, they should take it apart, grab the tomato slice, wash it, and reassemble the sandwich. Which would have done nothing to remove the Salmonella inside the tomatoes.
Ten years later, and the FightBac message still lacks soul.
I don’t see gender. I got five daughters, and when we stopped at the McDonald’s on the way home from the beach the other weekend, the server said, do you want a boy toy or a girl toy with that happy meal, I said, I don’t care. It shoudn’t matter.
My girls play hockey.
But according to the FightBac folks, the numbers of men who report shopping and cooking are on the rise.
My father’s been doing the shopping and cooking for decades. So have I. So have a number of my brofriends.
These self-reported surveys mean nothing, are so out of touch with what I see in grocery stores, and are soulless.
The American Meat Institute proclaimed it was going to the grass roots to share the facts about meat and poultry.
“The Communicators Advocating Meat and Poultry or CAMP program is designed to harness the energies of a growing number of individuals within the industry and the field of meat science who are committed to sharing the facts about the products that the industry produces and the measures they take to ensure they are safe, wholesome, nutritious and humane.”
When a band says it’s going back to its roots, they’ve lost it.
A university student that helps with food safety news asked if such groups would be mad if I questioned their integrity.
It’s an indictment of the university system that she even asked that question, so accustomed have they become to Noam-Chomsky-esq self-censorship. Health inspectors e-mail me from around the world on a regular basis, saying they are fearful for their jobs if they speak out about what they see.
Or as Neil Young sang:
I am a lonely visitor.
I came too late to cause a stir,
Though I campaigned all my life
towards that goal.
I hardly slept the night you wept
Our secret’s safe and still well kept
Where even Richard Nixon has got soul.
Even Richard Nixon has got
Food safety requires passion and soul.
Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University.