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Food for Thought

It seems like 2006 has been a bad year for food and people who, like me, love to eat. Food poisoning outbreaks abounded (sidenote: if spinach, tomatoes, and onions aren't safe, what is?) and local governments have banned everything from foie gras (too cruel) to trans fats (too bad).

Interestingly, as noted in The World Almanac's "Historical Anniversaries 2006," it was 100 years ago, in 1906, that Upton Sinclair's grisly novel The Jungle exposed unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the meatpacking industry to the meat-eating public. Congress passed the first legislation regulating food and drug processing and labeling that same year.

Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser writes in this editorial that FDA food inspections in recent years have fallen about 90 percent, from around 35,000 FDA inspection visits in the 1970s, to about 3,400 a year. Schlosser's editorial also directed me to a Consumer Reports investigation that found campylobacter or salmonella, the leading causes of foodborne illness, in 83 percent of fresh, whole broiler chickens.

I may have laughed (just a little) when my college roommate switched her major to "food politics," but her choice isn't seeming quite so silly now.


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