Food fascists coast to coast have been quick to place the blame for this year’s E.coli outbreaks on their usual public punching bags — the federal government, “big business,” and modern agriculture. Obscured in the finger-pointing frenzy is the fact that the real culprit is in the mirror.
As The Wall Street Journal noted this week, some of the activist world’s biggest guns have been fighting against the one tool proven to prevent food-borne illnesses like E.coli: “The technology is known as food ‘irradiation,’ a process that propels gamma rays into meat, poultry and produce in order to kill most insects and bacteria.” Irradiation has been certified safe and effective by a number of prominent food safety agencies, including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, The American Medical Association, and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Yet the FDA hasn’t approved irradiation for widespread use, primarily because of a campaign run by anti-tech reactionaries like the Organic Consumers Association, Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen, and the increasingly misguided Consumer Reports. Their charges ultimately amount to an incoherent collection of scare words (e.g., “unnatural,” “exotic”) without any scientific justification. But, hey, who needs evidence when you’ve got an agenda and a press release?
The Journal rightly points out that these activist all-stars have been successful at road-blocking food irradiation technology because the media hasn’t held them accountable. Even now, when we’re seeing the human cost to this neo-Luddite zealotry, most news stories just regurgitate activist-branded solutions, without any mention of the very technology that can make a difference:
[T]he press replays the familiar yarn that the E. coli outbreaks are caused by budget cuts and government collusion with industry. In fact, FDA spending on food safety has increased to $535 million in 2006 from $354 million in 2001, a 51% increase. In any case, such inspections and more regulations can never hope to prevent E. coli as well as irradiation does. The government couldn’t possibly hire enough inspectors to track the many sources of fresh produce in the U.S.