Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dad is right about medium well done

If you like burgers, as I do, take a deep breath and read today's Times piece about the hamburger that sickened young Stephanie Smith, now paralyzed due to E Coli contamination.

Further damning proof of an under-regulated society, perhaps? where the Department of Agriculture's guidelines about testing for contaminants in ground beef rarely morph into mandates and where vendors rule the food chain. Or, is it a structural problem? I learned back in my early career days in Washington DC that the Dept of Agriculture, much like other federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, has a mandate to both regulate and promote the viability of the industries they oversee. A clear and inherent conflict of interest not yet adequately addressed through legislation.

Growing up in suburbia, one of our family jokes/conflicts was how well done the burgers were going to come off the grill under Dad's supervision---he, being of the carbonized burger faction, and me, among others, hoping for medium rare. Maybe he knew more than he led us to believe back then. We grumbled about the overcooked burgers but never got ill at home from anything we ever ate.

Are we now entering an era where we have to think twice about everything we drink, eat, wear, and experience. Back in the day, a benevolent government had a defined and effective role as watchdog over excesses and human error in ways that might prove harmful to the people. Today, such functions are denigrated in the public sphere as being quasi-socialist tendencies. And quality of life declines.

We are just crazy about unfettered capitalist freedoms in this country. Or maybe we are just plain crazy.

1 comment:

  1. When you and I were young, you could eat your burgers medium rare without the fear of get E-coli157 or other bacteria from the meat. That was a time before corn took over the farms as the crop of choice and became feed for the cows instead of grass. Earl Butz in 1976 in response to rising meat prices and increased demand from the Soviet Union was the perpetrator of cheap corn and ultimately cheap food in the U.S. Cheap food begets cheap slaughtering/manufacturing processes and unhealthy cows who have to be treated with antibiotics because they are eating corn instead of grass. I tell my kids not to buy ground beef at the grocery store. It is good to hear that at least Costco claims to check the e-coli levels in its beef before it grinds it.