Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WAR STORY


Thursday, Sept. 2 Mark Gresge, owner/chef of L'etoile restaurant in Charlottesville, notified us that Pamela Burke, a Charlottesville City Health Inspector had been in and written up a critical hazard for using eggs from an "unapproved source." Interestingly, and in totally aberrant behavior, she did not confiscate the eggs on the spot--probably oversight more than charity.

This citation included not only the Polyface chicken eggs, but also the duck eggs from another local farmer. The citation included the remedy and cited code requirements that the eggs come from a source of B grade consumer-ready eggs as certified by the USDA. Never did it indicate the eggs were less than B grade.
In fact, Polyface eggs far exceed B grade.

Joel Salatin immediately called the owner/chef, Gresge, to get the legal language and the code numbers cited. Then he called Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, where legal counsel Pete Kennedy, Esq., answered the phone. Kennedy took down the information, did his sleuthing, and within 24 hours had an admission from Burke that the citation was in error and that the eggs were indeed legal for commerce.

Tuesday, Sept. 7 Kennedy will seek to get the citation expunged from the restaurant's record.

These are the facts, just the facts. But let's make sure everyone gets the broader message:

1. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is THE vanguard of food freedom. Without FTCLDF, Joel and Polyface would have spent hours wrangling, haggling, getting ulcers and fighting a battle with food police bureaucrats. Precious time, energy, and emotional capital would have been squandered trying to secure basic food rights and parse the regulatory labyrinth.

Here's the point: JOINING FTCLDF, more than Nature Conservancy, Audobon Society, Humane Society, Slow Food, Sierra Club, or whatever is THE MOST IMPORTANT and fundamental thing you can do right now to secure your freedom to eat the food of your choice. Polyface urges, implores, begs you to encourage this national organization that offers legal relief in these days in which the interests hostile
to food choice are becoming more aggressive and more bold. Please do this for your children.

2. The food police are often wrong. Their petulant swaggering around the food system is often unfocused, incorrect, ignorant, or all of the above. We live in a culture preconditioned to trust government officials. We teach our children to respect government officials. But those officials are human too. They make mistakes. They interpret things incorrectly. Sometimes they contrive violations to warrant their job titles. Often, chefs make sure they have an obvious violation in order to placate the "gotcha" mentality of the food police. Once the infraction is found and duly noted, the food police go on their merry way to the next victim. It's quite a cat and mouse game. All funded by taxpayers, who pay the salary of the gumshoe first, then pay extra for their inefficiently-operated restaurant at mealtime. Double taxation.

The regulations themselves are voluminous and couched in legalese to the point that the average bureaucrat and average citizen can scarcely discern the meaning. When unleashing bottom-rung bureaucrats armed with thousands of government-speak pages of directives on little businesses, the temptation to misapply and make egregious mistakes is astronomical. The Romans had a saying that you could tell the stability of a culture by the number of laws it had. Indeed, our culture is teetering, based on that benchmark.

3. The food police, for all their pomp and circumstance, are really all about one thing: making sure the status quo remains. For those of us finding ourselves more and more out of step with society's thinking, these officials represent the assurance that current thinking will prevail. They are there to make sure innovation and creativity do not see the light of day. And to make sure that all pegs are square and all holes are . . . square.

This is procrusteanism at its worst. In Greek mythology, Procrustes was an evil superman who had a hillside covered in iron beds all the same length. He would roam the countryside capturing victims and chaining them to the beds. If a person was too short for the bed, he stretched him. If too tall, he cut off his legs
to fit. Today, the word procrustean bespeaks a "one size fits all" mentality in an eloquent word picture out of classic Greek mythology. These food police bring procrustean societal enforcement to our food choices.

Food for thought:
Are you a member of the FTCLDF?
Are you planning on joining?
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