Friday, April 20, 2012

What does deregulation mean for health?

I didn't buy much chicken from the grocery store when I was in North Carolina. The "contains no more than 10% broth" label put me off. What was it hiding? In Canada, when you buy chicken, that's pretty much what you get - although the antibiotic and pesticide residue isn't listed, and the quality of muscle tissue that is confined, not allowed to stretch or move, is also dubious. 

Apparently, American chicken can get worse. Breaking American news this week: Chicken processing plants can now monitor themselves
The USDA hopes to save $85 million over three years by laying off 1,000 government inspectors and turning over their duties to company monitors who will staff the poultry processing lines in plants across the country. The poultry companies expect to save more than $250 million a year because they, in turn will  be allowed to speed up the processing lines to a dizzying 175 birds per minute with one USDA inspector at the end of the line.  Currently, traditional poultry lines move at a maximum of 90 birds per minute, with up to three USDA inspectors on line.
Engage in a thought experiment with me. Imagine film footage of dots moving from right to left. Three dots per second pass in front of your eyes. Now, imagine those dots are chickens with tumours, or chickens with traces of fecal matter on them. Are you going to spot that?

The ABC article linked above reminds us that "2010 was a record year for salmonella infection and 2011 saw 103 poultry, egg and meat recalls because of disease-causing bacteria, the most in nearly 10 years." If you were a betting person, what do you think is going to happen to those stats? (Or will we just be adding more ammonia to the meat to kill any nasties?)

This bears a striking parallel to some Canadian deregulation news this week. Only in this case, it's the health of entire ecosystems that is placed at risk, and unlike buying chicken, we can't opt out of the effects of this one.

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