I loved school, I mean it was a fantastic experience for me. It was an opportunity to learn so much about the world around me, and, in my little classroom world, to excel. It was great, and the weird thing is that so much of the minutia that I learned back then, still pops up into my peripheral consciousness from time to time. Usually when watching Jeopardy. Lately though, a whole lot of it is coming back to me. All that stuff about how back in the beginnings of the 1900's, it was determined that monopolies were a bad thing. Monopolies really were bad. We had a few people that through incredible business acumen, luck, and a few dirty tricks, accumulated huge amounts of individual industries, made themselves into quite wealthy rulers in their little world all at the expense of any sort of prosperity for the multitudes of the working classes on whose backs the giants were built. Steel, railroads, gasoline, electric power, software, computers. Oh wait, those are just some of the modern day monopolies, right along with the big ones in agribusiness. Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow and a few others. Seed companies. Well, and they do manufacture huge amounts of chemicals for agricultural use as well. But it is the seed production businesses that are the real monopoly. Back in the early nineties these big giant agribusinesses began buying all of the companies that produce seed for farmers. When Genetically Modified crops were given the well paid for go ahead to infiltrate our lives by the senate in 1996, then the monopoly took over and the only seeds available to farmers became GM. That's a monopoly, even if it's three or four companies doing the controlling, it's definitely still a monopoly.
And the US government sanctions it.
So how does the FDA fit into that/ Well, let's just say that all of the preceding was an introduction into the world of government sanctioned unlawful collusion to make certain specific persons and companies richer. Let's look at almonds. California has over 3,000 independent almond growers in it. Today they supply more almonds than any other country in the world and have the second highest production levels as well. When the growers harvest their almonds, most of the crops go to Blue Diamond, the world's largest processor of almonds. Ever since 2007, every almond that leaves their processing factory gets roasted, toasted. fried, or in some way transformed from "RAW" to cooked. There are no actual raw almonds allowed to be shipped out of California anymore. The reason this is so is because in 2001 there was an outbreak of salmonella, almost a hundred people fell ill. Then in 2004 there was a second outbreak of salmonella that was traced back to almonds that were sold as raw and were contaminated with the bacteria. One person died. The FDA stepped in and devised new rules for the treatment of almonds, pasteurization. There are three methods used to kill any bacteria living on the almonds, steam, chemical and radiation. The thing is, the equipment to do any of the three costs upwards of two and a half million dollars. The end result, most of the smaller almond packers went by the wayside and now pretty much all of the almonds grown in California go to, The US Government Sanctioned Monopoly, Blue Diamond.
Hunh. Weird, one person died. According to the CDC, (CDC Outbreaks) each year there are over a million cases of salmonella poisoning in this country alone. And there are a thousand deaths related to food poisoning. And believe it or not, Consumer Reports and several other consumer groups have shown live salmonella contamination on 75 to 80 percent of the chicken for sale in supermarkets. Chicken carcasses are dipped in either a chlorine or ammonia solution to "HELP" stop the bacterial contamination. The Salmonella is present on the carcasses because of the horrific unsanitary conditions in which they are raised and slaughtered. If the FDA was interested in protecting consumers and not corporate profits, then all chicken would be precooked. That would stop any contamination.
Salmonella bacteria are pretty nasty, but believe it or not, not all that hardy. They, like their friends, E. coli, live in the lower digestive tracts of mammals. That's where they belong. When they burst out into the real world, conditions must be perfect for them to survive, or else they whither and die. Conditions like high moisture, nutrient source, within a remarkably narrow temperature range. When an animal, human or otherwise takes a crap out in the wilds, then the bacteria in their feces have a short time frame to find a new environment, such as another host animal to provide them with a place to live. The surface of almonds is not a great place for Salmonella bacteria. It is dry, impervious to growth piercing the thick skin, and normally out of reach of contamination sources, like animals taking a crap on them. The plain fact of the matter is that almonds normally do not pose any sort of risk for any bacterial contamination, if properly stored. So the really big question is how did the Salmonella contamination get into the almonds to cause the two outbreaks. From what I have read, the two outbreaks were traced back to the largest grower, Johnson Farms, who it seems, sell all of their almonds to, Blue Diamond. So, after the outbreaks, the FDA instituted rules to pretty much destroy any independent processors of almonds, and no one anywhere stopped to ask who sat on top of a pile of shelled almonds and took a dump on it to contaminate the batch.
Might just be me, but about ten years ago I went to the prepared salad section of the megamart and looked at all the varieties of salad in bags. I remember there were a lot of brands, and varieties to choose from. I usually buy my salad on the plant and cut it and wash it myself, you know, to avoid that which I am about to talk about. Back in the early 2000's there were multiple multiple recalls of prepared salad mixes from numerous producers for E. Coli and Salmonella contamination. New rules about that from the FDA and believe it or not, there are only about 4 agrigiant processors of ready made salads in the country. They do private labeling, but regulation put the little guys out of business, and they were swallowed by the big guys.
Hmmmmm, now it seems that the FDA is wanting to BAN all small egg producing companies that produce Free Range eggs. The FDA says that chickens that are allowed to move around outside in the open air are susceptible to contamination from wild birds. All of the producers of these eggs, are small. Giant agribusinesses control the major markets for eggs, and they are all produced in unsanitary unhealthy conditions and fed some disgusting crap. But the possibility of contamination from wild birds is going to destroy hundreds of small businesses.
Eeeeyyyyicks. The dairy industry has pretty much made the production of unpasteurized milk a FELONY. This time it's the USDA in there with the FDA and even though there are over six hundred times more incidents of contamination in commercial pasteurized milk than have been found in small local dairies selling unpasteurized milk. Yet it is indeed a felony to do so. The sad fact is that pasteurization is needed for agribusiness to produce clean milk because of the horrific conditions in large scale Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). Small scale dairies, are on their way out of existence.
Ohhhhh, nnnnooooooo. Spices are next in line. It seems that some spices have been found to be contaminated with that old standby bacteria that big companies seem to love to make sure competitors have in their products, Salmonella. The FDA is currently investigating what new regulations need to be instituted to stop any such problems reaching the general public. Again, spices are dry products, and if handled properly, should never have any form of bacterial contamination on them. Yes, it is possible that some might be there if improperly processed. But then that is a problem with a specific processor, not a whole industry. But it remains to be seen what will happen, and how new rules will affect the small independent processors and allow the giants, like McCormick to acquire their competitors.
So do I have any proof that all of these things, and more, have happened, or will happen and are directly related to the actions of governmental agencies acting to destroy the ability for small businesses to exist and for agrigiants to dominate their individual areas of commerce through virtual monopolies? No, I don't. And truthfully, I don't think it exists. What I believe has occurred is that simple problem that affects all of us, one person wanting to get an unfair advantage and therefore bribes one individual to do something. And the problem is that there are a whole lot of one persons out there wanting an unfair advantage and they all have a whole lot of money to use.
So is it a bad thing to have major corporations running our food supply?
.................. well.......... duh?