Thursday, March 02, 2006

I, For One, Welcome Our New Corporate Overlords

This time in the food industry. Representative Louise Slaughter has written a post about the new "Food Uniformity Act", an act, which tries to make it impossible for states to provide more information about the food we eat than the industry wants us to get:

This legislation which will make American consumers more vulnerable to some of the more horrific practices of our food industry and will have consequences just like the costs of Republican corruption we detail in America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption.

Here is one specific example of exactly how this legislation is going to hurt average Americans who live next door to you.

Think about the meat you buy every week in your local grocery stories. Right now, the Bush FDA says it's OK for the meat companies to lace our meat with carbon monoxide.

If some of the meat in supermarkets is looking rosier than it used to, the reason is that a growing number of markets are selling it in airtight packages treated with a touch of carbon monoxide to help the product stay red for weeks.

This form of ''modified atmosphere packaging,'' a technique in which other gases replace oxygen, has become more widely used as supermarkets eliminate their butchers and buy precut, ''case-ready'' meat from processing plants.

The reason for its popularity in the industry is clear. One study, conducted at Oklahoma State University for the Cattlemen's Beef Board in 2003, said retailers lost at least $1 billion a year as meat turned brown from exposure to oxygen, because, though it might still be fairly fresh and perfectly safe, consumers simply judged meat's freshness by its color.

The carbon monoxide is itself harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging. But opponents say that the process, which is also used to keep tuna rosy, allows stores to sell meat that is no longer fresh, and that consumers would not know until they opened the package at home and smelled it. Labels do not note whether meat has been laced with carbon monoxide.

The "Food Uniformity Act" would prevent states from stopping this practice if they decided thay didn't want its citizens eating meat laced with carbon monoxide.

This reminds me of a European indoors market where funny lights made all meat look rosy, until you took your purchase out and saw the maggots. Just kidding about the maggots. But I'm not kidding about the real intent of an act like this: it aims at making us unaware of what we are actually buying. And don't you just love the names they give these acts! "Food Uniformity" indeed. It's 1984 all over again.