George Graham

In Free-Market America, You’ll Eat Some Nasty Stuff

The war against Big Government is having unintended consequences, and the way things are going, the situation is sure to get worse. Much worse. One development that makes me sick to my stomach is the trend toward self-regulation in the food industry. It’s one of the side effects of the “austerity” that Republicans are imposing on us.

I read an article in this morning that’s really scary. Written by Martha Rosenberg, it originally appeared in AlterNet. Here’s an excerpt:

The federal government is increasingly washing its hands, pun intended, of slaughterhouse inspection and encouraging industry “self-regulation,” which is cheaper for both sides. Thanks to the new era of food industry laissez-faire, assembly lines are moving even more quickly–if that’s possible–and more aggressive chemicals are being employed. “Pink Slime” treated with puffs of ammonia to kill E. coli, was only one example of extreme chemicals routinely used to kill germs, often under the public’s radar.

There is also an ongoing battle between US trade officials and the European Union and Russia over US poultry because it is dipped in chlorine bleach to kill germs. Who knew?

We don’t eat much meat at our house, anyway, as Sandra is sorry for the animals – not only because they’re cold-bloodedly slaughtered but also because of the horrible conditions in which most of them are raised. I can’t remember the last time we had a juicy steak, for example. And when she reads this, chicken will probably disappear from our menu. Pork, too. And turkey. Consider this passage in Ms. Rosenberg’s article:

Despite the routine use of antibiotics in livestock operations, bacteria and resistant bacteria are rampant in the food supply. Almost half of US beef, chicken, pork and turkey contained staph bacteria when they were tested, reported the Los Angeles Times in 2011–including the resistant MRSA bacterium (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Two serious strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar, forced recalls in recent years of turkey products from Jennie-O Turkey and Cargill. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that disposed meat should be placed in sealed garbage cans to protect wildlife.

Bad as they are, these horrors pale beside the nightmare that would undoubtedly come if the small-government activists win their battle for America’s hearts and minds. There would be no independent policing of the food that reaches our tables, no attempt to ameliorate the suffering of livestock and poultry, no shield against the dangers of genetically modified vegetables and animals…

There would also be no public school system, no subsidized health care, drastically reduced police and fire protection, no libraries or museums, no safe water supply, no safeguards against loan-sharking credit card companies … Everything would be governed by the global corporations’ bottom line, and when profit is the only consideration, people get the short end of the stick.

As for me, I am grateful for the protection that Big Government provides in this dog-eat-dog world. And I don’t begrudge the taxes I’ve had to pay over the years. It’s mystifying to me that so many Americans, including those with far more money than they could ever need, are fighting so fiercely against paying taxes.

I am also grateful for the roads and bridges, schools and clinics, power grids and reservoirs – all of the amenities that civilization provides. We didn’t have much of that in the mountains of Jamaica when I was growing up and – trust me – we missed it.

Click here for Ms. Rosenberg’s article.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for