I am troubled by how Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives staff and food safety experts are using food safety as a trump card to shut down an important conversation about how we can both protect the public and also support small, independent farmers and food processors.
The response, from MAFRI and food safety experts, to protests over the recent MAFRI raid on Harborside Farms at Pilot Mound sensationalizes the risk of botulism, listeria and other illnesses associated with these types of operations.
Almost all meat contains some listeria yet most who eat listeria are never symptomatic. Botulism is more dangerous, but is treatable and rarely fatal. The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta claims only three to five per cent of cases are fatal. In Canada, there are an average of two cases per year, mostly from improper home canning.
So, yes, you could die from eating these bacteria and/or toxins but I wonder, how much care goes into artisanal products compared to the XL Beef plant that slaughtered 4,000 head a day.
Are invested small business owners (who you know personally) less or more likely to care about food safety than the employee on a slaughterhouse (dis)assembly line?
If we compared food-borne illness caused by eating industrial processed food versus foods grown and prepared by neighbours and small-scale artisanal growers, what would we find? The research doesn’t seem to exist. Perhaps it should.
Food safety regulations are fundamentally important but food safety is being very narrowly framed. We need to question the claims being made by MAFRI and food scientists. THE Experts?
We need to step back from the microscope to allow for a more holistic consideration of safety along with health, economy, environment, connection, equality.
-This letter to the editor was submitted to the Manitoba Co-operator.
-Written by Colin Anderson