It is with sadness that I wash my milk bottles, perhaps for the last time. Every Sunday our milk bottles are put in the oven at 100 degrees to sterilise them before they are dropped off to the dairy on Monday and new bottles full of amazing creamy goodness picked up.
I can see a few of you may be twitching now. “data error” is flashing up on your brain screen. How can it be that someone is taking responsibility for the safety of their food? We go out of our way to do this. We go out of our way to pick up our milk. We do this because we want to know where our food comes from. We do this because we think what farmer Brown can produce is a better product than what we can by at any supermarket.
We know farmer Brown and his fastidiously clean ways. We know his cows and see them eating their farm grown hay in the winter and wandering the lush - non supered – pastures during the summer. We know where our food comes from but we are not just trusting farmer Brown to deliver safe milk. We need to ensure this ourselves by keeping our bottles clean and sterilised, and by storing our milk in a timely manner in refrigeration – much the same as any food you might buy from anywhere.
Over the years as we have all been disengaged from producing our food, we have also be absolved of much of the responsibility of keeping our food safe. Governments have assumed this responsibility. They have departments and thousands of forms and regulations. So there is a lot of stuff in train to keep our food safe. Even the man who puts a bag of flour in a bread maker and delivers it to his B&B clientele the next morning needs to have a food handling safety course.
So have you ever bought an “off” chicken at the supermarket? I have. I could smell it was off straight away. I made a decision that it was not safe to eat something that smelled like that despite the fact that is was for sale as an edible product. And if I knew that this chicken sat in a water ice slurry contaminated with the burst intestines of other chickens I would not have made the purchase in the first place.
But you see the forms in the factory were signed saying the bacteria count was acceptable. The transport truck was approved by Primesafe and has it’s temperature recorded at regular intervals. The supermarket freezers were also up to regulations and the best by date (printed on the chook wrapper) had not been exceeded.
Who’s to blame for that bad chicken? Well nobody can be blamed because all the regulations were followed. If somebody died from eating it, unfortunately nobody is a fault because all the boxes were ticked. Unfortunately the occasional sick or dead person is the price paid for a food system that is mechanised, intensive, often inhumane and disconnected from the end consumer.
Most of us get a product that while it won’t kill us has questionable nutritional values. That’s how we all get along in this world. And even when products are introduced that might increase nutritional values and humanness - for example “Free Range”, the government makes the regulations so lax as to allow any operator to mislead the public. I heard a lady in the supermarket inform her daughters (as she pulled some cage eggs from the shelf) that “all this free ranges stuff was shoddy – most days they don’t even let them out!”. The boxes to tick in this case probably do not exist. This allows businesses to make more money from doing less. Business people will do what they are required to make profits – they are not bad. The government allows them to do it through lack of legislation and regulation. Lack of regulation may exist on the part of getting a better quality egg to the customer but you can be sure that lots of laws and regulations exist to protect these large and inhumane businesses from competition from small operators. In the US there are laws that label people as terrorists who film animal cruelty and expose it using social or other media. These laws aren’t here yet but our country so loves to emulate the Americans it is probably only a matter of time before the industries try to slip these laws through.
While food should be about nutrition people, I’m afraid it is about making money. There are a myriad of rules and regs that claim to be making our food safe. What they actually do is keep smaller players (who could supply a better and more nutritious product) out of the market. Only large businesses can manage the paperwork and infrastructure required by these regulations. So sit back , relax and get ready for another contraction of the food system as nanny state takes aim at raw milk. It’s all to protect the public they will tell you and gosh ( as they slap each other on the back) they’re not going to lose any votes from this one! The media will probably hail them as superheroes.
However I think they are wrong about the votes as this issue is set to galvanise a very thoughtful and articulate group of people. People who care about real food safety and real nutrition in food. Lets face it – people who go to this much trouble to get a product they are happy to feed to their families are not going to take this government over-regulation lying down.
And finally I would like to take a moment to thank Raw milk dairies for producing the wonderful, nutritious product they have been producing up until this point. They are the real super heroes. People of substance and integrity who care about good food and have the courage to produce it.