"What's" the Beef?

Forget, for a moment, the John Walker Lindh's and Timothy McVeigh's of the world. This article is not about that kind of domestic terrorist. Rather, it's about those individuals whose job it is to knowingly look the other way, and contribute to the poisoning of their fellow citizens on a daily basis. Especially when it involves children.

It's no secret, when it comes to food, we, as a nation, have been slowly killing each other for decades with the products that our supermarkets and fast food chains happily stock en masse, and which may contain any number of unpronounceable ingredients, usually ending, ironically enough, in "a-t-e." Yet, even though the Internet has leveled the playing field tremendously when it comes to protesting these types of actions before they take effect, or even forcing them, in some cases, to reverse direction, it's still "business-as-usual" for our government.

Yesterday, for instance, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced it is buying seven million pounds of "Pink Slime" -- the ammonia-treated beef byproduct consisting mostly of connective cow tissue (barf), and deemed a "bad idea" by the likes of McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell. How bad does this stuff have to be to be dropped by the food versions of Gordon Gekko? Granted, celeb chef Jamie Oliver played a big part, but the "slime" was exposed for what it is. Literally, garbage. Nonetheless, this junk is now well on its way to becoming a key ingredient in your child's school lunch. If that doesn't make you 'sick to your stomach,' nothing will.

The statements made by the USDA claim "All USDA ground beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program must meet the highest standards for food safety." Highest standards according to who? Just because there's no immediate threat of bacteria making the kids sick tomorrow, or the next day, doesn't mean that the chemicals being consumed now, under guise of making the meat "safe," won't lead to all kinds of wonderful ailments ten or twenty years down the line (God only knows what those of us who went to school in the '70s and '80s were consuming -- probably television parts). The capper is, scientists say, even after this "mystery meat" is treated with this possible carcinogen, the meat's still believed to be susceptible to e. coli and salmonella, anyway. And, lest we forget, this stuff has almost no nutritional value at all!

When traces of dozens of pharmaceuticals and pesticides were found in New York City's drinking water, the city's Department of Environmental Protection maintained there was no danger -- as the water met the highest standards allowed by law. The problem was, nowhere in the law did it require limiting levels of pharmaceuticals of any kind. So, technically, they were right.

And, it just gets worse. The FDA, the organization that's supposed to protect us from eating things that will cause our babies to be born with three heads, doesn't even require labeling products treated with ammonia. Nor will they require labels when they allow salmon to be injected with human growth hormones. Add to that, Obama quietly appointing a former Monsanto CEO to head its Food Safety division, and you can see we're being attacked from all sides. (Although, the hormones-in-salmon thing looks like it could be good, as one salmon reportedly hit 61 home runs.)

Unfortunately, as a society, we don't have each other's backs. We're simply not honest with each other when it comes to the risks surrounding the foods we eat and the chemicals we use to make them. Because, when ya get right down to it, we don't know what the risks are. We don't know what type of diseases or complications consuming ammonia, or drinking trace amounts of insecticide, will ultimately cause. So, why must we always say, "It's probably fine," when it comes to the health and well-being of our children, as well as ourselves? Why not err on the other side? Why not take the position, "We're not going to allow this until we know -- for certain -- that it's completely safe?" The answer's obvious: money. It takes money to change policy. It takes money to overhaul an industry. And these industries pay better than the environmental groups fighting them. Perhaps, next time you hear someone ask, "Where's the beef?," you should tell them the correct term is, "What's the beef?"