US Food Safety Standards: The heated debate about pasteurization
What is pasteurization?
Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Raw Milk
What are the benefits?
What are the risks?
Local Economies, Small Farms, consumer choice
Who is doing the research and who gets to decide?
References & Links
Comments & questions to:
US Food Safety Standards:
The heated debate about pasteurization
The politics of food complicate every bite we take. Food politics
grow out of consumer needs and interests, industry research, government
regulation, the limits of nature, cultural norms, and the seemingly
simple everyday decisions we make that influence the market. Food
legislation and policy dramatically impact consumer safety and freedom
of choice, ultimately determining the success of different types of
agriculture and local economies.
This website focuses on the politics of
consumer choice within the realm of food safety. Where is the
line drawn between the government’s role as protector and the citizen’s
right to choose? What kinds of risks should be permissible, and
when should access be eliminated completely? I will examine how
regulations are impacting small farmers, democratic freedom of consumer
choice, and public health.
The debate around pasteurization will ground
my argument. I will specifically focus on raw milk cheese, a
controversial item stealthily lurking behind the closed doors of the
market (it’s currently illegal in the US but is sold under pretenses
such as “fish bait” to circumvent regulations). Supporters
fervently believe in its health benefits, and its critical links to
small farmers, local economies, and cultural traditions.
Opponents of raw milk cheese fear health issues and food
poisoning. The latter group calls for the pasteurization of milk
across the board, regardless of farm conditions. Legislation has banned
raw milk cheese to “protect” the citizenry. Yet supporters of raw
cheese say that these laws are approaching the issue from the wrong
direction, punishing the small farms for the consequences of outbreaks
associated with completely different issues. From their point of view,
pasteurization is a major health concern in itself, as it can actually
weaken human immune systems.
I will examine several features of this
controversy to attempt to explain the importance of the debate. My
central concerns are as follow:
·What is the purpose of pasteurization, and what might it be masking?
·How should community and democratic choice fall into the debate?
·What has been the impact of the government in preventing raw milk cheese from entering the market?
·How has ‘science’ been used by both proponents and opponents in this discussion and in legislation?
·What are the ethical implications of permitting raw milk cheese?
These concerns will explore how food safety legislation balances the
control of our food system and economy and protects our citizenry,
while trying to understand how it may be expanded to protect our
freedom of choice.
Last updated: 5/06/10