Way back in high school, I learned about Upton Sinclair and the phrase, “Muckraker.” A muckraker was someone who exposed corruption that put people’s health at risk. Upton Sinclair earned his title, coined by President Teddy Roosevelt, by writing a book called The Jungle exposing deep, unsafe conditions in the meat processing plants of turn of the century Chicago. I was firmly assured in my early-70’s classroom that our food was now safe due to the efforts of Mr. Sinclair and other muckrakers like him. Significant reforms had taken place and our food was now regularly and rigorously inspected. Caveat Emptor was no longer the watchword of the day. I could see it for myself because our food came from clean, well run stores with re-assuring names like “Safeway.” It was just another reason, along with the best medical system in the world, great public schools, fair and humane treatment of our prisoners of war, why the United States of America was so … well … great.
Well, cross another item off the list. The Westlund/Hallmark Meat Company is recalling about two years worth of meat because a Humane Society video exposed the inclusion of downer cattle, cows that go down and can not get back up because of illness or injury, in the meat that was sold. This happened in spite of USDA inspections. And it’s not an isolated incident. Topps Meat Co. is no longer in existence after it recalled 21.7 million pounds of meat due to E Coli contamination in September 2007. Vegetarianism is no guarantee of safety; E. Coli pops up on spinach and lettuce on an all too regular basis.
So, this is America, right? Why does this keep happening?