Safe food

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

A press release issued this week by Gov. Mark Warner’s office trumpets the governor’s proclamation of Sept. as Food Safety Month.

According to the release, while &uot;Virginians enjoy one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world…consumers can undermine these efforts if they are not careful when they buy, prepare and store food.&uot;

The release goes on to warn us to wash our hands, cook meat at high enough temperatures, refrigerate perishables and generally be clean.

Email newsletter signup

Food safety is certainly an important subject and one that merits government attention, however, to lay the blame for food safety problems at the feet of consumers is an insult to Virginians as well as a downright falsehood.

The food industry – particularly the meat industry – is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. The contributions spread among congressmen have made it possible for the United States to have one of the weakest food inspection programs in the industrialized world.

Further, and even more damaging to our long-term health and financial condition, is the government’s insistence on promoting a diet that leads to such maladies as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and reflux. Scientists know which foods promote health and which do not, yet dietary recommendations are often watered down to cater to the wishes of the food industry.

Much attention has been drawn to the recent Medicare prescription drug benefit. Those drugs used most often and that are driving health care costs ever higher on consumers are those associated with poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, those used to treat the very maladies listed above. Our health care crisis, if indeed one exists as so many politicians suggest, stems primarily from this – along with legislation designed to line the pockets of the prescription drug industry, which also happens to have a powerful lobby – and it is aided and abetted by politicians at the state and federal level.

Schools share blame as well, making sugary soft drinks and processed, sodium and fat-laden snack machine foods accessible to children and encouraging their use so they can reap the profits. Then they turn around and eliminate physical education classes.

Gov. Warner is right to give warnings about food safety, but he’s aiming them in the wrong direction. The food many of us eat is slowly killing us. We’re not asking the government to intervene. Adults have a right to eat what they choose. We just wish our own government would stop facilitating it.