Has America Finally Gone Nuts?

5 04 2007

By Jill Ettinger

When a petition came across my desk protesting mandatory almond pasteurization, I thought that clearly someone had his or her facts wrong. We have a right to choose what we eat. There are countless people right now licking Dorito flavor crystals off their fingers for god’s sake.

But I didn’t read wrong. There is in fact a mandatory pasteurization being enforced in this country effective September 1, 2007. ON ALMONDS. Motivating this movement are several salmonella cases linked to raw almonds, specifically one in 2001 and again in 2004. Yah, that sucks. No one deserves to get sick, but does this seem a tad bit weird?

There was a deathly outbreak from spinach last year that had us all feeling like Popeye was on a killing spree. There are millions of contaminations from diseased carcasses and their by-products we consume (which probably outweigh every other illness combined). Sure, we create all sorts of names for these diseases, to mask the reality behind the horrific conditions associated with factory-farmed animals. It’s sloppy business for sure. People are really beginning to take notice, choosing cage-free eggs and organic, antibiotic and hormone-free meat and dairy. But it’s a zygote of a percentage compared to what the rest of the country is frying up at Denny’s.

So what is this deal with almonds? We consume tons of fresh fruits and vegetables that go unsprayed and unpasteurized. This mandate states that any unpasteurized almond must be labeled as such, and essentially shipped to places “other” than North America. Is this really a safety issue? Or is it about our right to choose? Once we lose the ability to take risk into our own hands, we lose that which makes us uniquely individual. It’s only a mask covering good old-fashioned Orwellian psycho-babble about doing good for the collective.

Food is that ubiquitous and humbling thread connecting all life on Earth, and not just for humans. More and more limits are being put on actual choice in our worldwide process of industrialization. Species are dying because their food sources dried up with the lake that used to be there; some of us have only allergenic genetically-altered options; some have non-native invasive options; and some have ersatz American food ala Pringles and Taco Bell.

Our choices have become drastically limited over the last century. This type of seemingly benign “safety mandate” is just how government and corporate takeovers happen. Just look at the battle hemp has had. It’s an absurd situation to ban a food from being grown on our soil,while finished products can be sold here. If we have a right to anything, it’s that which has been here longer than us. So while it might seem a bit silly – this harmless health code – it’s more like homeland security in a Mr. Peanut costume.

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