I have been glued to the media reports on the political upheaval in the Middle East over the last several weeks. The unrest was sparked in an interesting place:

Mohamed_Bouazizi_candle.jpgOn December 17, 2011, twenty-six year-old Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi lit the fuse that ended his life and ignited the current unrest sweeping the Middle East. Bouazizi, a street vendor, set himself on fire in despair and in protest of his treatment at the hands of local authorities. Earlier, officials had seized his wheelbarrow full of produce and beaten him in public. The tragic circumstances surrounding Bouazizi’s self-immolation sparked protests in his rural hometown. The protests, which sometimes turned into violent riots, quickly spread to other areas and the capital, Tunis.

Like many in the “food safety establishment” – FDA, USDA, FSIS, CDC and State and Local Health Authorities, I get pummeled by charges of being a “Food Fascist,” “Tool of Big Ag,” “In the pocket of Monsanto,” or, “You are part of the Soros’s Conspiracy,” etc., by those in Small Ag – especially, those in the Raw Milk Movement.

Sometimes the accusations and violent-filled rhetoric by some in the movement, is simply too much and I find myself not listening to anything the non-monolithic movement says at all. Perhaps, the death of Mohamed Bouazizi should be a cautionary tale to us all on both sides?

  • I grew up in Lebanon, and I followed the incident very closely, I work as a Health Inspector in USA at this time, and I felt horrible for this horrible incident. I’m thinking about going to Tunis within 2 years and come back and have a presentation to our local health inspectors.
    It is very important to be compassionate, we have to understand each person situation, and we have to place ourselves in his/her shoes.
    We have to be strict, but polite.

  • Minkpuppy

    Civility, respect and professionalism are the most important things I have learned as an inspector. It is not beneficial to have adversarial relationships with the industry I regulate. Mutual respect goes a long ways towards accomplishing food safety goals.

  • Bill Anderson

    I would agree with you here Bill. That is why I say that food safety is best achieved by research and science, not by prosecution and criminalization.
    The problem is that scientists are dependent on funders who do not have the public interest at heart. This is why I was telling you about the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research yesterday. Though some of the food scientists there are well-intentioned, they are dependent on funding from huge dairy processing corporations and milk marketing boards which have no interest in showing how raw milk can be safely produced. They are only interested in research on the functionality of mozzerella for huge pizza chains, and how to make low-fat/low-salt cheese taste acceptable to consumers (normally low-fat/low-salt cheese is bland and hardly edible)
    In my mind, the public health community discredits themselves when they say there is no significant difference between raw and pasteurized milk. There are very significant differences not just between raw and pasteurized, but between different types of milks from different farms, regions, animals, seasons of the year and stages of lactation. The flavor and aroma, the way the milk coagulates in the cheese vat, and the way that the cheese ripens in the aging room are all very very different between different milks. The public health community in essence is playing into BigAg’s lie that “milk is milk” (all milk is the same no matter how it is produced), and then go on to prosecute us for wanting an alternative.
    Do you see why there is such hostility towards the food safety establishment from small Ag?

  • It is a two-way street. Many if the small-Ag/raw milk movement need to tone it down. The violence talk, conspiracy theories, name calling has to stop. No one listens otherwise.

  • minkpuppy

    Overall, I think those of us in the US need to get down on our knees, Thank God and our lucky stars that all we have to worry about is Big Ag vs Small-Ag, and raw vs pasteurized milk.

    The citizens of Tunisia, Egypt and now Jordan are standing up to be freed from dictatorships that have ruled their countries for decades. Anyone that wants to throw around words like fascism, nazi, communist etc. needs a reality check if they think anything remotely like that is happening in this country. The citizens of the US do not know what it is truly like to live in a society where they are not free to say what the want, go where they want and do what they want. I may think this country is going to heck in a handbasket, but I’d rather live here than somewhere that doesn’t allow me to post what I’m writing here.

    Again, I say, if you don’t like what your congressman, governors, president etc are doing, then vote them out or the very things you fear will come to fruition.