Goo-Goo History: Or, Everything You Know is Wrong!
“The Jungle,” and the campaign that Sinclair waged after its publication, led directly to passage of a landmark federal food safety law, which took effect 100 years ago this week. Sinclair awakened a nation not just to the dangers in the food supply, but to the central role government has to play in keeping it safe. But as the poisonings of spinach eaters and Taco Bell customers recently made clear, the battle is far from over — and in recent years, we have been moving in the wrong direction....The only problem with the official version is that it's just about a 180-degree reversal of the truth in every detail. To get around the Art Schlesinger mythology, all you have to do is read Gabriel Kolko's The Triumph of Conservatism, a brilliant work of New Left history on the role of the regulated industries in formulating "The Great Trust-Buster's" regulatory agenda. You see, the big meatpackers were already subject to a federal inspection regime. The federal government had adopted the older system at their behest in the late nineteenth century, when an embarrassing tainted meat scandal threatened their market in Europe. The federal government at the time adopted inspection regulations for all meatpackers engaged in the export trade. It was a classic example of cartelization through the state: the meat exporters, which happened to be the largest firms, for all intents and purposes adopted an industry code enforced by the state. It was exactly the kind of code an industry might have adopted on its own initiative, with the added benefit of being non-defectable. So the costs of compliance were not a competitive issue between the big packers. There was only one drawback: it didn't apply to the small packers that didn't produce for the export market. What TR's Meat Inspection Act did was bring the small packers into the regime, to remove the competitive advantage they received from their exemption.
As a result of Sinclair’s crusade, Congress passed the Food and Drug Act, which had been effectively blocked by industry.
USA Weekend recently ran a similarly goo-gooish puff piece that used the e. coli spinach scare as an object lesson on how safe American food is, thanks to the efforts of "our government."
Thanks to the efforts of the CDC, FDA and USDA, our food supply is among the safest on Earth, and, if a problem arises, they're on top of it.
Golly gee whiz! Just close your eyes after reading this, and you're magically transported back to the 1950s: Watch those wonderful, grainy black and white educational films with countless loaves of Wonder Bread speeding down the line, and similarly endless ranks of pasteurized milk in quart bottles on their way for pickup by the friendly guy in the white truck! See the panoramic view of rippling Midwestern wheat fields with giant machinery rumbling through! Hear that up-beat industrial music in the background! Imagine the menacing face of Immanuel Goldstein, shouting insane gibberish! Oops, wait--wrong propaganda film.
There's one thing this pleasant myth conveniently leaves out, though:
Where does this particularly virulent strain [of e. coli] come from? It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms....
When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold.
In other words, the source of the problem is the very model of factory farming the USDA was created to support. That's right: those nice people that do such a swell job handing out all those crutches are the same ones who broke our legs. What's that you say, girl? Timmy's in trouble?
As Roy Childs put it, liberal intellectuals are the running dogs of big business.