Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Food Terror

There are people in the world looking to harm us. That much I know and believe. Invading Iraq was a dumb idea with nothing to do with protecting our nation's people. That's all I care to say about that.

For those seeking to do us harm, you have to take a look at our food production, processing and distribution systems. Mass production, mass processing and mass distribution channels are bound to have some weak spots.

I'm not sure how to go about protecting it or even sure how to assess the risk potential. You have to think like a terrorist and look for places to inflict the most damage. A recent government report about food chain vulnerabilities was suppressed apparently because it was "an instruction manual for terrorists."

I don't know. You also have to add mass media to the equation. Terror works on the collective head of a population. An attack needn't reach the proportions of the World Trade Center attack to inflict panic and create instability. Just the thought that something bad was in the food or affecting the food might be enough.

The agricultural business community needs to keep its head up. There are efforts underway to better assess and track animal movement, for example. Response procedures are crucial and need careful definition and understood command chains.

We all live under a thin veneer of protective technology. It probably wouldn't take a lot to punch a hole in that veneer.

Friday, June 10, 2005

raw trouble

You can put anything in your mouth and swallow and I don't care. Really, just go for it. That's not to say I think you *should* put certain things in your mouth and swallow. Raw milk comes to mind.

If you're adult and making choices for yourself about drinking raw milk, then I respectfully advise you it's a risky idea. Bacteria live everywhere and a complete menu of bacteria is found on all kinds of farms and bacteria love their milk. Even the short list is pretty impressive: e.coli, salmonella, listeria.

You can get a home pasteurizer for about $300 or pasteurize milk with things you have around the house. Pasteurization is heating the milk to 145 degrees and keeping it at 145 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

The argument that raw milk is somehow better for you is spectacularly stupid. Calculating probabilities isn't my strong suit but it's fair to compare drinking raw milk with gambling. The odds are unknown to me, but if you're drinking raw milk you're living on the edge.

People have also told me raw milk tastes better. Pasteurization does affect taste. But milk harvested right from the cow and pasteurized is as fresh a taste treat as there is and you get to enjoy it without thinking about invisible nasties working over your guts.

Finally, if you're pushing raw milk out the back door of your farm to families with kids, you're risking their lives, too, not to mention exploiting ignorance for your gain.