Saturday, February 23, 2008

Safe School Lunches? Good Luck with That

My kids get to have breakfast for dinner tonight. Their dad has been out of town for two days and won't be back until tomorrow night. The Tiger is running a high fever (just south of 103 this morning). So we're breaking out the "magically delicious" multicolored marshmallow pseudo-food as a rare treat.

Golden tofu in peanut sauce with green veggies will be served sometime next week when we're at full strength again.

In the meantime? Yes, I'm pandering. Shamelessly. Unapologetically.

And you know what? Even taking into account the yellow dyes, which my chemist friend assures me are the devil's own nutrient, our dinner will be a heck of a lot healthier than some of the staples of the school lunch program.

Brilliant at Breakfast has some smart and biting commentary on recent revelations that a California slaughterhouse was routinely abusing sick cows (and not treating its workers so great, either) while allowing meat from downer cattle into the foodstream in a move that Melina likens to Soylent Green. Jill at BaB points out that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob, aka mad cow disease, has an incubation period of up to 30 years - and that much of this meat went straight to the school lunch program:
I guess this is what "No Child Left Behind" means. It means that when the Bush Administration gets done with its virtual elimination of oversight over the pharmaceutical and food industries, there will be no children left. They'll all be dead from tainted food and drugs.

But at least the embryos will be saved.
Salon reported yesterday that the resulting recall affects
143 million pounds of beef products, most of which has already been consumed. About 40 percent of that meat went to the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition programs.
The really scary thing, again according to Salon, is that the Humane Society sting that uncovered these abuses had no reason to single out the offending slaughterhouse, Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, California. They picked the plant at random. What are the odds that this is the only rogue plant in the bunch? And why did federal inspectors, who were present in the plant, do nothing?

Only one of my children is old enough for school lunches. And the Bear is a vegetarian by his own choice, an outgrowth of his involvement in kid-initiated animal welfare clubs. (The first group raised $100 for the local dog shelter through lemonade stands and donation jars. The second has decorated the elementary school with posters of hand-drawn bears and other critters begging "don't kill me!" in speech bubbles.) I'm happy to cook veggie because I learned cooking from the Moosewood Cookbook while living in a large co-op house in the mid-1980s, and even now I eat very little meat: poultry a few times a year, seafood as often as I can, and that's pretty much it. So while the Bear made his own decision, his dad and I have happily supported it. He does make a couple of exceptions; gummi bears and marshmallows (see above) are still on the menu.

But that's just one kid who's not at risk from potentially contaminated meat. There are millions of others whose parents can't be sure of their safety. Shouldn't they be able to depend on government regulations and inspections? Or must they rely on luck and charms?

Magically delicious image from General Mills, which holds the copyright. I use it here under fair use provisions that permit reproduction for purposes of non-commercial critical scholarship and journalism.


ThePoliticalCat said...

Kudos to the Bear for such an enlightened attitude! It'll save his life yet.

We are ashamed to confess that La Casa de Los Gatos eats meat of every kind. We try to keep it down to approximately 2 lb/wk for 2 adult humans, with lots of veggies, but still.

Sungold said...

Well, see, as a Cat you're an obligate carnivore, anyway.

In my book, it's not about prohibiting any one item from the menu. We had Mac'n'Cheese for dinner tonight, albeit the Trader Joe version ... My mate returned tonight, so the pandering is about to end and our nutrition will improve at least marginally.

I think our culture would take a giant leap, though, if we were were a bit more reflective about what we gulp down - more local food, a notch lower on the food chain, slightly less processing.

All of which makes me excited to start a few tomato seeds!