The One Issue Food Activists Should Focus On

Publication: The Washington Post

Author: Jane Black

12/25/2012 - ''Ask a dozen food activists what political change they want to see in 2013 and you’ll get a dozen different answers, maybe two dozen: Restrict sodium in packaged foods. Label genetically modified ingredients. End subsidies to big farms.

The variety of responses reflects just how much work still needs to be done as well as the diversity within the ranks of reformers. But it reveals a lack of focus — or, you might say, political maturity — that is likely to doom even the worthiest items on their wish lists.''


''All are critical. But I couldn't see any of those getting a bunch of tattooed chefs or idealistic college kids or suburban moms, let alone all of them, to lobby their member of Congress.

What did meet all the requirements was this: Get antibiotics off the farm and out of the food supply.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States — about 28.8 million pounds — are given to animals that are raised for food. Most of those animals are perfectly healthy, but they receive regular doses of medicine to make them grow faster, to make up for cramped conditions on industrial farms. Those two "benefits" are part of how producers keep the price of meat cheap.

The problem is that antibiotic overuse breeds drug-resistant ­superbugs that can move from animals to people in numerous ways, including via the meat we eat.

"We are really at a point in history where we are looking at the real loss of antibiotics," said Laura Rogers, the director of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. "Most people can't imagine what that would be like. Without antibiotics, routine surgeries aren't safe. Transplants would be all but impossible. Strep throat moves from a minor worry to a major threat."


"Over the past decade, the food movement, if you can call it a movement, has successfully made food an "issue." But its solution, for the most part, has been to support an alternative food chain — critics allege mostly for its mostly elite members — rather than remaking the food chain that feeds millions, indeed most, Americans.

As Hauter, of Food and Water Watch, likes to say, we just can’t shop our way out of this. Only smart politics will yield smarter food.

Here’s to cleaner meat in 2013.

Read the full article, The One Issue Food Activists Should Focus On, on the Washington Post's website.

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