As you keep that in mind, please allow me to say a word or two about “Fast Food Nation,” Eric Schlosser’s landmark novel ostensibly about the fast-food industry. As I noted on the old site at another time and place:
To all of you "blue staters", read the sections of the book that pertain to the meat processing plants and how they're run and please explain to me why we should ever vote for a Republican again. Clinton tried to clean that up, but the Republicans took over Congress in '94, and everything lapsed back to how it was under Reagan and Bush Sr. I don't want to describe anything else, because it is beyond nauseating. To all of you "red staters," don't read it BECAUSE I WOULDN'T WANT YOU TO ACTUALLY THINK AND TRY TO USE YOUR BRAINS, BECAUSE YOU MIGHT HURT YOURSELVES!OK, I should take it easy on my fellow “red state” Americans, for now (even Cynthia Sneed…I have to “give her a kick” once in a while…don’t I?)
Schlosser’s book is not only an expose of the fast-food industry, but it really lays bare so much of our unhealthy way of life that I believe it should be required reading for just about everyone. To me, though, aside from Schlosser’s sickening but (I’m sure) utterly accurate descriptions of meat processing plants in this country, such as Con Agra and Excel, the most gut-wrenching and, ultimately, heartbreaking portions of his book had to do with describing the effect of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on humans (especially children) who end up eating meat tainted with disease from brain and spinal cord tissue. I’ll just leave it at that and let you, dear reader, do any further research on that if you so choose. Basically, if you EVER see any portion of a burger or poultry that is even slightly undercooked and you've eaten any of it, stop eating it immediately, save it for possible tests, and be wary for any symptoms you might feel or notice over the next 24-72 hours or so, and be prepared to go to a hospital emergency room if you do (I’m completely serious).
The reason I started out with mentioning Froma Harrop is that she attacked Schlosser over a year ago (cited by the American Meat Institute here) over claims that our packing plants are still unsafe. Harrop advocated a voluntary system of compliance that must have been music to the ears, so to speak, of the meat and poultry producers of this country.
Well, guess what, Ms. Harrop? I’m sure that Japan would tell you at this moment that our supposed voluntary system of compliance is a joke (also, I did some checking around on Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, and aside from the fact that he used to be a Democrat, I haven’t really found anything else wrong with him, so he may actually be the right person to handle this…Bushco actually does something right for a change – stop the presses!).
I worked for an import/export company at one point in my illustrious career (insert snide remark here), and I can tell you definitively that import requirements for this country are stringent and restrictive in ways that you cannot imagine, and thank God that is the case. I have no familiarity with such requirements for Japan, but I can guess that they are at least as much that way for them, and probably more so.
This is an area where you need EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT REGULATION AND INTERVENTION. Assuming that everyone involved will otherwise act as good boys and girls is a recipe for suicide.
I don’t know if Bush has cut the budget for enforcement at our plants or loosened food safety regulations. I suspect the answer is yes, but I can’t prove it, so I could be wrong. If I can, and I’m right, I will update this post PDQ (here's some background on other food-related tricks that Bush and his cronies have tried to pull, particularly at the time of the last mad cow scare in December 2003).
As for Ms. Harrop, I will await her next column on this subject.