The Consumer Union has been in the news a couple times in the last couple of weeks. Just before Halloween the CU filed a petition with the FDA requesting that the governmental organization ban the practice of feeding chicken feces and basically anything else found on the floor of large chicken operations to beef cattle. This is a common practice in CAFOs, and of course affirmed as a safe practice by the beef industry. Interestingly enough, McDonalds the largest beef purchaser in the world is in support of the ban.
The CU also made recent headlines with a report that will be published in their December issue that tested for Bisphenol A in common food products. All 19 products tested showed BPA contamination at various levels. This is really not groundbreaking news as the many other studies have shown that BPA from food packaging leaches into food. The Environmental Working Group’s 2007 report on BPA showed baby formula had some of the highest levels tested.
With the release of the Consumers Union report, the industry in question is again stating that the results are flawed, and that their own testing and other reports show that BPA is harmless to humans. This, despite numerous other reports showing harmful effects of BPA, and support of the CU report from organizations such as the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Clean New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Oregon Toxics Alliance and other environmental health advocates.
Regardless of what studies one believes, the fact remains that there is some weird stuff in our food. Food packaging liners that are supposed to keep things out of our packaged food are leaching BPA into the food. Cows that are supposed to eat grass, are eating chicken poop and feathers. These are the facts, no one is debating them. Yet somehow the debate is on whether these things are harmful to humans and not on why they are in our food. A man made chemical is found in almost every packaged food on stores shelves (and restaurant kitchens). Beef is being created with chicken poop and the scrapings of the coop. This is just not a healthy, safe or sustainable option.
So, what are restaurants to do? Take the advice of sustainable food and agricultural advocate Wendell Berry:
•Participate in food production
•Prepare your own food
•Know the origins
•Learn about industrial food production, agriculture, food species
It basically comes down to the root of a sustainable foodservice operation; preparing fresh, local and sustainable food. Opening a can of product produced by an unknown company with ingredients from unknown producers places too much responsibility in the hands of others. Products made in-house from fresh ingredients sourced from producers known by name have an inherent pride and responsibility for quality and safety in them. Pride and a sense of responsibility create good food. Good food creates repeat customers…