From armed police raiding organic food coops to the DOA confiscating raw milk in Minnesota, we've already seen some pretty heavy-handed policing tactics being applied to the local and organic food movements.
Officials Force Chef to Pour Bleach on Entire Feast
But while the safety of raw milk may still be at least a somewhat debatable issue, the idea that Government officials can force private citizens to pour bleach on perfectly good food is disturbing to say the least. But that's what apparently happened at Quail Hollow Farm in Nevada where a farm-to-table dinner was interrupted by officials from the Southern Nevada Health District. (The farmer was told they couldn't even serve the food to their pigs.)
As many of the folks in the video below argue, there is something very strange about a system that allows junk food to be marketed to children, and where obesity, heart disease and diet-related cancers are running rampant, and yet small-scale producers are not able to serve food to their immediate customers without a complex set of regulations that were designed more for the industrial food system than a local, informal economy.
Regulations Were Not Followed
Of course the video below shows only one side of the story. The Las Vegas Sun reports on the Quail Hollow Farm raid and explains that among the inspector's complaints were that "prepared food packages had no labels; some of the meat was not USDA certified; some food was prepared in advance off-site and not up to proper temperature; vegetables were declared unfit; and there were no receipts for food."
Evolving Regulations for the Informal Food Economy?
Whether or not the answer was to pour bleach on all the food, of course, will depend on where you stand on the old spectrum between common sense and law and order at all costs. Interestingly, while many online commenters are busy decrying this admittedly depressing spectacle as a sign of the New World Order and big government fascism, others see it simply as a sign of regulations designed for one thing being erroneously applied to something else. As Christine argues over at our sister site Parentables, "laws written for mega-corporations simply cannot be tailored to fit a back-to-the-land approach". Even Susan LaBay of the Southern Nevada Health District would seem to agree. Talking to the Las Vegas Sun, she admists that there is a need for more flexible legislation when it comes to farm-to-table events and other small scale food gatherings:
Strangely enough, LaBay acknowledged that farm-to-table meals will often be safer than a store-bought one, because fewer hands touching the food usually makes for a safer meal. And she said she’s sympathetic to the idea of legislation that would help farmers host these events while still complying with the law. The problem is that the regulations were written for the era of industrial food production and often don’t allow for freshly butchered meat, raw milk and homemade items like pickles. Until the law is changed, LaBay said, “We don’t have an option.”
Much like rolling stops for cyclists, there is a strong case for creating rules, regulations and systems for enforcing them that are specifically designed for small-scale producers and farm-to-table dinners. The one-size-fits-all mentality can only favor the big guys, and will leave all of us with a less healthy, less productive food system as a result.