Food, Inc.: A Searing Expose of the Food Processing Industry

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

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The new documentary, Food, Inc. is a searing expose of food conglomerates that control our food supply, from farm to table. Narrated by Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan, author of several food books, the most recent one entitled In Defense of Food (Click on my Book Reviews), the movie is upsetting and enlightening.

While I have been a vegetarian for decades and therefore have been aware of much of what the movie portrays, I was still moved to tears and also to nausea at some of the graphically illustrated displays of slaughterhouses and chicken farms. Not surprisingly, the food companies that own these farms, or essentially own the farmers, refused to be interviewed. Monsanto and Purdue are big players in this movie as only two examples of how their desire for profit outweighs every other consideration of the farmers’ needs, the workers’ needs, and the safety and care of the animals that become the food on our tables.

This is not an easy movie to watch. I cried when the mother of a 2 ½ year old talks about the death of her son Kevin. She has been working for six years to get Kevin’s Law passed. (There is another Kevin’s Law about a 24-year old mental patient. This Kevin’s Law refers to Food, Inc.) The law would have been formally known as the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act of 2003. The bill was introduced by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Palo Atlo, as H.R. 3160. Kevin’s Law was named in memory of two-year-old Kevin Kowalcyk, who died in 2001 after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The law would have given the U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to close down plants that produce contaminated meat. The bill never became law.

I also became upset when I saw the animals and the workers who “process” the animals. Many are Mexicans who are being arrested as part of the scheme to stay within the law surrounding food safety. Unfortunately, they are replaced by more Mexicans, and the processing plant continues to belch out its products untouched by the law, because the manufactured food lobby is strong and government administrators are often former CEOs of the food conglomerates.

Not all the news is bad. There are many scenes that are hopeful, especially those focusing on a farmer who farms the “old-fashioned” way and the owner of Stonyfield Yogurt, who has Wal-Mart buying his organic products. While we may dislike many of Wal-Mart’s marketing policies, Stonyfield believes that reaching millions of people through Wal-Mart stores means more people will eat healthier. Thus, the movie makes a strong attempt to be balanced. But the main message is clear: We have given our farms to Monsanto (and others like Monsanto) and our kitchen to Betty Crocker (and other packaged food companies).

The movie is an eye opener for those of us who have been living with the myth/hope that our food is still produced as it was in our grandparents’ day. The movie ends with the emphasis that we vote with our food dollars and therefore can change the world with every bite. There is a website that you can go to that gives us hope. See the movie and/or click on www.takepart.com/foodinc. The title of the website is Hungry for Change, and there are several tabs. I signed the petition for safer food in schools under the tab Take Action. Please use your fork and knife to protect our food supply!

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