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Thread: When Food is Outlawed...

  1. #1
    All Living is Local Don's Avatar
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    When Food is Outlawed...

    2500 people gather in San Francisco to skirt 'food safety' laws that limit 'food entrepreneurs' to those who can cough up more than $1000 for San Francisco's coffers.
    At midnight, the smell of stir-fried pork bellies was wafting through the Mission district. There was live music, liquor, bouncers, a disco ball — and a line waiting to sample hundreds of delicacies made mostly on location, among them bacon-wrapped mochi (a Japanese rice paste) and ice cream made from red beets, Guinness and chocolate cake.

    In a sense it is civil disobedience on a paper plate.

    The underground market seeks to encourage food entrepreneurship by helping young vendors avoid roughly $1,000 a year in fees — including those for health permits and liability insurance — required by legitimate farmers markets. Here, where the food rave — call it a crave — was born, the market organizers sidestep city health inspections by operating as a private club, requiring that participants become “members” (free) and sign a disclaimer noting that food might not be prepared in a space that has been inspected.
    This is no isolated incident. Washington, Atlanta, even London and Amsterdam are infected. The movement is spreading.
    Amateur cooks around the country are pushing to have the right to sell unlicensed goods directly to consumers. So-called “cottage food” laws that allow products considered nonhazardous, like pies and cookies, exist in 18 states, with five more considering similar legislation.
    I found the next quote telling, for how much we've changed as a society over the last 50 years. From outlawing LSD to outlawing string cheese, how far we've come.
    Where psychedelic drugs famously transported another self-conscious San Francisco generation, the rebel act of choice by Valerie Luu, 23, a first-generation Vietnamese chef, is deep-frying string cheese in a cast-iron pan.

    “When I was their age I was doing drugs and going to rock shows,” said Novella Carpenter, an urban farmer and author who recently got into a spat with the City of Oakland for selling chard and other produce at a pop-up farm stand without a permit.
    And I particularly appreciate this analysis.
    Some see the growth of the underground markets as part of a high renaissance of awareness for a Fast Food Nation generation, with its antipathy for the industrial food machine. In the recesses of the markets, a certain self-expressive, do-it-yourself “craftness” flourishes.
    Being an agorist, I see this story as full of win. Innovative, healthy food prepared by dedicated amateurs as the 'bad guy,' going up against the 'approved' slop of Big Food and their enforcers. Civil disobedience. Mocking of the power structure. People having fun celebrating the open defiance of those who would dicate to them. And it primarily involves people who'd never in a million years attend a tea party or protest 'big government.' This strikes me as the liberal version of the 'raw milk' controversy.

    Freedom's popular!


    What's your take?


    BTW, I missed this when it ran in April, so hat-tip to LewRockwell.com.
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  2. #2
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    How do you know it's healthy? How do you know it's not coated in salmonella, e. coli, and rat feces? I'm not saying licensing guarantees safety, but no-licensing sure as hell doesn't guarantee it. And who do you contact to find out if the sellers have a good or bad history? No one is keeping track of them. How do you know you're not buying your lunch from a latter day Typhoid Mary?

    Freedom sure is popular. So is food poisoning -- at least it gets around pretty good.

    I'll stick to buying my food from either licensed vendors or private individuals I happen to know personally, thanks.
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    Lost in School Work icerose's Avatar
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    I don't think that food safety laws and inspections should be stopped, especially not for big businesses, but I also think there should be addendums for the small groups like this with the full disclosure that it has not been vetted by anyone and they are taking a risk, though it sounds like you're going to see everything they're doing as they do it, which is how I prefer my food prepared.
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    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    I love open kitchens, too. And I'd love to live in a world free of food additives and all that restaurant-service crap they use in fast food joints and public institutions, etc. I'll gladly advocate day and night to have "foods" like "pink slime" meat extenders absolutely outlawed (which, of course, can't happen without government intervention).

    And if people want to roll the dice on cramps and diarrhea by buying their food from random unlicensed, uninspected strangers, I say go for it. It's no skin off my nose.

    But I do think the attitude that food safety laws are oppressive is a legacy of the luxury of going a couple of generations with safe, properly controlled food sources. People who think they don't need food safety controls are lucky enough never to have lived in a world without them.
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  5. #5
    Joker Groupie Celia Cyanide's Avatar
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    Is it me, or is the thread title a little over the top?
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    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, Don, but don't libertarians believe in laws that prevent people from doing harm to others? How is this different? (I really want to know.)
    Last edited by Roger J Carlson; 07-29-2011 at 07:26 PM. Reason: re-worded for clarity
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    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    A lot of people worked long, difficult years against strong opposition to get the food safety laws we've got now. Just because kids aren't dying from contaminated milk anymore doesn't mean it's all cool and hip and rebellious to flout food safety laws.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW firedrake's Avatar
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    Yeah, I love those little 'extras' you get with unregulated food.



    Having traveled in countries where there are few or no regulations, having had to quaff Immodium in order to make it through a few hours without gut-twisting cramps and worse, having seen a woman taken so ill, she was left in the dubious care of a back of beyond hospital with a cardboard box for a bedpan...I'm all for some laws to protect my health.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celia Cyanide View Post
    Is it me, or is the thread title a little over the top?
    It's not you.
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  10. #10
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muravyets View Post
    But I do think the attitude that food safety laws are oppressive is a legacy of the luxury of going a couple of generations with safe, properly controlled food sources. People who think they don't need food safety controls are lucky enough never to have lived in a world without them.
    I have to disagree with that statement. I'm a product of rural environment where we grew our own "truck patch" of veggies, raised our own chickens for meat and eggs, and traded baked goods to my great-aunt in exchange for pasturized milk from her cows. In that environment I ate food prepared by ladies in the community at church and at social events and none of us ever suffered ill-effects from any of those foods.

    In my humble opinion what IS missing today is safe-food-handling knowledge due to fact fewer people prepare food themselves. At-home food prep and cooking are dying arts even though there is a resurgence of interest among what old fogeys like me call "the younger set", which is anyone under 40. How many people know today to wash produce they buy at the supermarket and how to do it? What about meats?

    You know, on another thread here we are bemoaning the economy and the effects of either raising the debt ceiling or not doing so. Has anyone stopped to think what would happen if the economy DID collapse and foods became scarce and costs skyrocketed? How many of us could "do" for ourselves or know where to go to get fed?

  11. #11
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    I guess you missed the part of my posts about random, unlicensed, uninspected strangers.

    It's one thing to prepare your own food from seed to plate. It's one thing to know the grower or preparer and how they do things. It's quite another to walk into some open venue and start scarfing down whatever because it's got that yummy extra dash of FREEDOM, without any clue whether the person preparing it knows anything about refrigeration or hand-washing.

    As I said, licensing may not guarantee safe food handling, but no-licensing absolutely does not guarantee it. If you cannot have personal knowledge of how the food got to the plate, then I think it is foolish not to look for proof that the producer and/or preparer has passed inspection, at the very least.

    That said, if people want to be foolish, I won't stop them. We all have to die of something, after all. I personally would not choose to die of a food-borne pathogen, but hey, to each his own. But if it comes to attacks on the FDA (as flawed as it) or denunciations of food safety regulations as somehow socially stifling, that I can't let slide. Millions of people live in urban environments where we cannot monitor the food chain at all points. We deserve to have safe things to eat and drink, just like everyone else.

    ETA: As for how many know how to procure food without a tax-funded delivery and inspection system, it probably wouldn't even come to that before hitting the fan. Those urban millions are geographically isolated from the places were food can be produced in anything like the volume to feed a family of four regularly. The modern, urbanized world is absolutely dependent on social cooperation among large groups over great distances. Personally, I would like to see those distances reduced by decentralizing food production into more regional farming areas. But the old medieval model of the castle town supported by surrounding farms is the bedrock of our society, and if the system to support that collapses to the point where each household must be able to produce for their own subsistence, a whole shit ton of people are going to die, whether they know how to grow tomatoes or not.

    ETA2: That said, it probably would be good for society to encourage a "Victory Garden" mentality in both cities and country, but that didn't happen without government education and encouragement the last time, and it won't happen without government now, either.

    Also, victory gardens weren't run to sell their produce to the public.
    Last edited by muravyets; 07-29-2011 at 07:53 PM.
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  12. #12
    All Living is Local Don's Avatar
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    Since this has been happening every Saturday night for at least the last six months in San Francisco, it's also going on in Washington, Atlanta, London and Amsterdam among other places, and 18 states have "cottage food" laws that allow for activities like this "food rave," I'd imagine there should be lots of people in hospitals from all that tainted food already.

    Or perhaps it's proving that adults can act like adults absent a gun in their ribs.
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    The 'social contract' is to the politician what 'original sin' is to the priest. ~Don
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  13. #13
    AW's Foremost Time Traveler Diana Hignutt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muravyets View Post
    I guess you missed the part of my posts about random, unlicensed, uninspected strangers.

    It's one thing to prepare your own food from seed to plate. It's one thing to know the grower or preparer and how they do things. It's quite another to walk into some open venue and start scarfing down whatever because it's got that yummy extra dash of FREEDOM, without any clue whether the person preparing it knows anything about refrigeration or hand-washing.

    As I said, licensing may not guarantee safe food handling, but no-licensing absolutely does not guarantee it. If you cannot have personal knowledge of how the food got to the plate, then I think it is foolish not to look for proof that the producer and/or preparer has passed inspection, at the very least.
    The problem with this argument is that the licensing agencies and their inspectors were bought by the food industry (read Monsanto) and therefore are working to allow poisens into our foodstream (HFCS, GMO's, Aspartame, etc.) that are potentially far worse than a dash of food poisen. Perhaps, Don's freedom isn't so bad. I mean you eat bad food and you puke and don't use that food vendor again. HFCS has caused epidemic obeisty and diabetes. GMO's cause sterility, birth defects, and cancers, Aspartame causes depression which can lead to suicide. It is literally the case of pick your poisen. It's not as simple as you are presenting here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Don View Post
    Since this has been happening every Saturday night for at least the last six months in San Francisco, it's also going on in Washington, Atlanta, London and Amsterdam among other places, and 18 states have "cottage food" laws that allow for activities like this "food rave," I'd imagine there should be lots of people in hospitals from all that tainted food already.

    Or perhaps it's proving that adults can act like adults absent a gun in their ribs.
    No, it might mean they've been lucky so far. Six months isn't much of a track record.
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  15. #15
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diana Hignutt View Post
    The problem with this argument is that the licensing agencies and their inspectors were bought by the food industry (read Monsanto) and therefore are working to allow poisens into our foodstream (HFCS, GMO's, Aspartame, etc.) that are potentially far worse than a dash of food poisen. Perhaps, Don's freedom isn't so bad. I mean you eat bad food and you puke and don't use that food vendor again. HFCS has caused epidemic obeisty and diabetes. GMO's cause sterility, birth defects, and cancers, Aspartame causes depression which can lead to suicide. It is literally the case of pick your poisen. It's not as simple as you are presenting here.
    Diana, I respect your arguments and position, but food-borne pathogens are far more serious than "you puke and you don't use that food vendor again." Contaminated food can cause brain damage, nerve damage, paralysis, organ failure, and death. Unispected milk can carry an entire horrorshow of microorganisms. There is far more at stake than upset stomachs.

    I agree that agribusiness and other big business interests hold too much sway over food safety laws. But that doesn't make food inspection a bad thing.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 07-29-2011 at 08:11 PM.

  16. #16
    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diana Hignutt View Post
    The problem with this argument is that the licensing agencies and their inspectors were bought by the food industry (read Monsanto) and therefore are working to allow poisens into our foodstream (HFCS, GMO's, Aspartame, etc.) that are potentially far worse than a dash of food poisen. Perhaps, Don's freedom isn't so bad. I mean you eat bad food and you puke and don't use that food vendor again. HFCS has caused epidemic obeisty and diabetes. GMO's cause sterility, birth defects, and cancers, Aspartame causes depression which can lead to suicide. It is literally the case of pick your poisen. It's not as simple as you are presenting here.
    Isn't it? Well, I think there's one thing that's even simpler -- without a regulatory system, there is nothing to stop the Monsanto, Agrimark, Conagra, etc., gang from poisoning us even worse, nothing to stop them from taking control of absolutely every aspect of food production. No way for us even to know they're doing it.

    Also, I never said it was simple. In my earlier posts, I have acknowledged that the current system is flawed, has problems, and cannot guarantee food safety. But the fact remains, for all of that, our food is far safer than it is in third world countries that lack regulatory systems. There may be very good arguments in favor of having tiers of regulation for big and small producers, for lowering the cost of getting purveyor permits, and that sort of thing. There is no good argument for declaring food regulation a bad thing.
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  17. #17
    AW's Foremost Time Traveler Diana Hignutt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muravyets View Post
    Isn't it? Well, I think there's one thing that's even simpler -- without a regulatory system, there is nothing to stop the Monsanto, Agrimark, Conagra, etc., gang from poisoning us even worse, nothing to stop them from taking control of absolutely every aspect of food production. No way for us even to know they're doing it.

    Also, I never said it was simple. In my earlier posts, I have acknowledged that the current system is flawed, has problems, and cannot guarantee food safety. But the fact remains, for all of that, our food is far safer than it is in third world countries that lack regulatory systems. There may be very good arguments in favor of having tiers of regulation for big and small producers, for lowering the cost of getting purveyor permits, and that sort of thing. There is no good argument for declaring food regulation a bad thing.
    1) Your first paragraph: That is exactly what the government is not only allowing to happen, but has been in collusion (as shown by Wikileaks) with Monsanto to make it so.

    2) Your second paragraph, there is a difference between making individuals sick and potentially wiping our species (and many others) off the planet by sterility-causing GMO pathogens.

    3) We probably agree far more about this than we disagree.

    I'm not against food inspection in principle.

  18. #18
    A woman said to write like a man. Plot Device's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    Diana, I respect your arguments and position, but food-borne pathogens are far more serious than "you puke and you don't use that food vendor again." Contaminated food can cause brain damage, nerve damage, paralysis, organ failure, and death. Unispected milk can carry an entire horrorshow of microorganisms. There is far more at stake than upset stomachs.

    I agree that agribusiness and other big business interests hold too much sway over food safety laws. But that doesn't make food inspection a bad thing.
    No one sys it's a bad thing.

    The protest from small vendors is that the current set of laws and systems are such an extreme encumberance as to drive many established vendors out of business, and discourage new ones from starting up in the first place.

    1) The insane amount of paper work which must get repeat-filed every single year.
    2) The outrageously high fees that all must get paid piece-meal every year (and don't you DARE overlook just one of those fees lest you get fined and shut down!).
    3) And then the stealth stumbling blocks covertly tossed in the way of small vendors when a NEW fee or a NEW round of paperwork no one ever heard of before gets required, but no one even knew about it until they missed the deadline and are faced with a fine or even a summons for missing it.

    A little girl getting a citation for selling lemonade from her parents' front lawn has become a cliche in the American press now.

    I have no qualms with food safety requirements. I've gotten a surprise weekend visit from dear old Sal Monella more than once in my life. And I had a job before college where I worked in a food production plant, as well as more than one stint in the food service industry (McDonald's, a local hotel, a caterer, etc). So I am aware of the need of keeping food unadulterated. But the system for writing and enforcing these food safety laws has been co-opted by Big Agri, and their mission is to put the little guy out of business because of the competition he poses. So Big Agri "helps" write the laws with that angle in mind.

    The policing of food needs to be re-examined. The public's safety definitely needs to come first. And "pink slime" should be among the first casualties of food reform, as should "meat glue." And the labeling of packaged food also needs to be more transparent. And via such transparency in labelling, hamburger joints should be given the choice to AVOID buying ground beef which has been diluted with "pink slime," insead of the very existence of the pink slime hidden from the guy who is trying to buy beef for his burger joint. And ice cream stands should be allowed to choose ice cream made without bovine growth hormones.

    But a little girl with a lemonade stand?
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  19. #19
    A woman said to write like a man. Plot Device's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celia Cyanide View Post
    Is it me, or is the thread title a little over the top?
    Quote Originally Posted by clintl View Post
    It's not you.

    When the USDA and the FDA organize SWAT teams to raid dairy farms because the farmer was selling raw milk, I don't think the title of this thread is over the top.
    It's NOT the end of steam, it's the end of CHEAP steam.
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  20. #20
    Write more; worry less! CaseyMack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muravyets View Post
    How do you know it's healthy? How do you know it's not coated in salmonella, e. coli, and rat feces? I'm not saying licensing guarantees safety, but no-licensing sure as hell doesn't guarantee it. And who do you contact to find out if the sellers have a good or bad history? No one is keeping track of them. How do you know you're not buying your lunch from a latter day Typhoid Mary?

    Freedom sure is popular. So is food poisoning -- at least it gets around pretty good.

    I'll stick to buying my food from either licensed vendors or private individuals I happen to know personally, thanks.
    I agree.

    I once attended a focus group sponsored by our mandated provincial automobile insurance corporation. They dangled lower rates in exchange for giving up the right to sue. Deregulation always sounds good until something crappy happens to you. That's when you discover that you have to pay the full cost of gambling that the legal system will get you compensation from someone who did something crummy.

    Still, as long as one is willing to take the risk (and is an adult), freedom means that they should have that choice...

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW firedrake's Avatar
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    I worked in a City planning department for several years. One of the things I had to deal with was people seeking permission for street food. There was several reasons why people needed permits:

    1. Food safety. I don't know about you, but if some random person sets up shop selling fish tacos of dubious origin on a street corner, in 110F heat, I'm going to want to be assured that they're taking measures to keep that fish cool and free of bugs.

    2. The effect on existing businesses. If I'm busting my chops to pay rent on my business, follow the rules, comply with County Health regs. etc. I don't want some half-arsed fly-by-night selling dodgy hot dogs from a cart outside my door.

    It was/is a poor town. We wanted to look after those business people who did things the right way, not say 'yes' to anyone who fancied selling tamales from a wheelbarrow.

    If you're that keen on preparing and selling food then you'll follow the rules. They're there to protect the consumer.

    If you think the regulations in the US are tight, you should try the UK. If someone wants to make food to sell, they have to prepare it in an entirely different kitchen than the one they use for their own domestic consumption.

  22. #22
    A woman said to write like a man. Plot Device's Avatar
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    Here's the trailer for a recently-released indy film called Farmageddon.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH_my56FkuQ

    The woman who made this movie is NOT a filmmaker. She's just a mom who wanted to provide her son with raw milk to help him combat his allergies. When she found out how raw milk providers were being eliminated via heavy handed legal tactics, she decided to interview the different dailry farmers. And then a film was born.

    I haven't seen the film yet because it's such a small film (released just 2 or 3 weeks ago) that it's only being shown on one screen at a time from one city to the next, in a new city each week. And it's not come to my area yet. But from what I have read and heard, the most gut-punching portion of the film was the interview with a sheep researcher who arranged 5 years ago to import a very special breed of sheep into the USA from England. This sheep researcher and her husband made the arrangements with the USDA to clear the importation of these sheep to their farm in Maine. The USDA helped them accomplish the introduction of those sheep to that isolated farm as long as the sheep remained isolated as part of an agreed upon 5-year experimental study. She and her husband spent 5 years trying to follow ALL the isolation requirements as they allowed the sheep to graze and to produce milk. They made cheese from the sheep milk, paid extensively for all the expensive tests that needed to be done on the sheep every year, filled out every last bit of paper work, and all of this for the purpose of eventually taking these sheep into a commercial enterprise. After the 5 years was up, they requested that the USDA declare the sheep "clean" (declared to be disease free and not contamined with something called scrapie) and allow the sheep to start mixing with other North American sheep, and allow the milk and cheese to be sold on the market.

    Instead the USDA confiscated the sheep and had them destroyed. The reason? The USDA claimed the sheep had the UK strain of mad cow disease -- even though it's impossible for sheep to get mad cow disease. And when the sheep researcher and her husband filed a Freedom of Information Act request, the lab tests on the destroyed sheep showed that the sheep were compleely disase free, yet were destroyed anyhow.

    This was surely a case of Big Agri out to stop a competitor animal and a competitor milk from coming into the North American market place. Five years of that married couple's life gone, and five years worth of research and all the money they poured into the project out of their own pockets.

    Food DOES get declared to be "outlawed" in this nation. And the movie Farmageddon points to a half dozen examples of such bogus declarations.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plot Device View Post
    When the USDA and the FDA organize SWAT teams to raid dairy farms because the farmer was selling raw milk, I don't think the title of this thread is over the top.
    The thread is not about dairies selling raw milk (although as dangerous as raw milk can be, that, of all things, should be among the most strictly regulated food products). It's about people setting up temporary restaurants for a profit without paying for permits, inspections and insurance.
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  24. #24
    A woman said to write like a man. Plot Device's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clintl View Post
    The thread is not about dairies selling raw milk (although as dangerous as raw milk can be, that, of all things, should be among the most strictly regulated food products). It's about people setting up temporary restaurants for a profit without paying for permits, inspections and insurance.

    And they do it because the machinery of the San Francisco system of food service regulation is working against them. The big picture that Don is trying to paint here is that the system needs revision.

    His OP is only using the San Fancisco situation as a jumping off point. The main thrust of his OP is that the system of food regulation in this country is too big and inefficient and is shooting at the wrong targets while letting other (big business) offenders go.

    ::ETA:: And if people wanna drink raw milk, let them. Just like we let them drink booze and smoke cigarettes.
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    Old revolutionary muravyets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diana Hignutt View Post
    1) Your first paragraph: That is exactly what the government is not only allowing to happen, but has been in collusion (as shown by Wikileaks) with Monsanto to make it so.

    2) Your second paragraph, there is a difference between making individuals sick and potentially wiping our species (and many others) off the planet by sterility-causing GMO pathogens.

    3) We probably agree far more about this than we disagree.

    I'm not against food inspection in principle.
    Just in practice?

    I take it you've never died of botulism, then.
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