Maybe it’s all the gubernatorial sex coverage bringing it on, but the internets have been going wild with genitalia-related weirdness. Slashfood turned up a bizarre teevee story on a mom freaked to find kiddy straws she insisted were shaped like penises. Keep that toddler protector away from cucumbers and bananas. And then there was the case of the cook who punished a customer complaining about an overcooked steak by barding the replacement ribeye with pubic hair. He was canned, of course, but not for grossness, only thanks to his employer’s insistence that “food safety is our number one priority.” I kinda doubt a little taste of hair pie is anywhere near as dangerous as all the genuinely scary stuff breaking out all over — hepatitis A here, Sbarro’s typhoid there, norovirus at restaurants at Great Escapes. Most of those are spread by food handlers who skip washing after shitting, just pull the gloves back on again. And all the hand condoms in the world don’t seem to be doing what good old soap and water once did. Hard to believe Typhoid Mary now looks like a kitchen trend-setter.
I guess the only surprise in the hugest beef recall ever is that the federal government didn’t rush to the company’s rescue. Big business is obviously top priority these days, and when you look at the just-released list of products containing that funky beef it’s not hard to see why. A lot of companies can buy very little regulatory oversight: Beef possibly scraped off downer cows wound up in everything from spaghetti sauce to frozen breakfast burritos, 466 products in all. And if that doesn’t make you queasy, start wondering how sickening salmonella leached into the water supply in a Colorado town, and turned up on cantaloupe imported from Central America. (Or, as a clueless wire service reporter put it and endless outlets repeated, from “a Honduran manufacturer,” as if melons grew on assembly lines.) Too bad our protectors cannot clean up a problem as fast as they can convict and deport a Mexican for abusing cows. Or bail out crooks who shit where they bank.
Consider yourself lucky Joe Nocera is merely wanking rather than flipping omelets at brunchtime in some super-busy restaurant. His take on the downer cows that were ground up and distributed to who-knows-which school lunch or Hot Pocket: One mad cow won’t spoil the whole batch. I am no admirer of animal rights activists who muck around with the food chain, but only someone who has eaten way too many “tacos, Mexican style” in a company cafeteria could seriously think an expose of an undeniable health threat was a simple publicity stunt. Long after Americans are going down with BSE, Nocera and his ilk will be quoting the inevitable Bushism: “No one could have anticipated. . . .” If you think an animal waterboarded to stand upright to pass inspection is going to make good eating, I have a Paula Deen ham to sell you.
Consider this the latest Exhibit A in the case for universal health care. First a produce worker at a Wegman’s upstate came down with hepatitis, leading 1,000 people to get protective shots. Then, far more devastating, a bartender at some hip club in Manhattan was diagnosed with the liver disease and who knows how many patrons were infected. Given that even a velvet rope could not contain the damage, I’m sure the easy answer is rescinding the law requiring doctors to report any cases of hepatitis A to the health authorities. Certainly that sounds simpler than businesses making sure their bathrooms are stocked with soap and their employees use it. The awful truth about people too strapped to pay for health care is that they will work whether they are sick or not, no matter what the MTA advises on those ridiculous posters, or how immune the boldfacers feel as they are isolated from commoners. It’s one thing to blank out how disgusting folding money has to be (from that shit-reeking bum on the A train to your wallet). Ever notice how filthy the glasses in rented limousines are, how crusty the seats? We can resist socialism, but germs will always be shared.
As the oceans die and fish prices go up, I’m noticing a fascinating phenomenon in environmental reporting on the food supply. Call it “look down in comfort.” The NYT story on how Jamaicans are poisoning their main river to catch shrimp and fish faster was certainly disturbing, but it had that ignoble-savages tone to it, that “see, they’re so shortsighted they don’t even understand the evil they do and it certainly doesn’t affect us.” Meanwhile, who knows how many millions of gallons of antibacterial crap are flushed into the water supply in this country every day. Somehow I don’t think a little Airborne is going to save us, either. Especially when you hear that Topps, the beef producer shut down after lethal shit was found in the meat, is now selling off the contents of its many freezers for pennies a pound. Somewhere a Bubba is going to ingest a burger and the feces it rode in on and never know what greed hit him. All while the high-minded journalists are worrying about what’s rotten in the third world. . . .
Random phrases stuck in my cranial sieve: Ghostwriters in the meat. If you feed them, they will blog. The Freaking section. Shafer for sheriff. And, in honor of the report finding the underfinanced, overextended FDA could not find shit in spinach if you handed it to it in a bag: Take the sushi. Leave the Chinese dumplings.
Big Food’s new motto seems to be “make shit while the sun don’t shine.” With the entire federal government evidently taken over by hacks and cronies, one company just got away with marketing frozen fecal burgers for months and now the chocolate industry is looking to cut its costs and push up its profits by getting DC approval to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter. Apparently pure food for everyone is a socialist idea. The WSJournal, in one of those stories that reeks of Murdochian sulfur, ran a long take on both sides that lent too much credibility to BF. Anytime candy makers start talking about healthier options, I want to run straight to the cane sugar — right now study after study is turning up nutritional benefits from real chocolate. And even if those are underwritten by Ghirardelli, you have to wonder why a 67-year-old burger packager simply shut down in a matter of days after getting caught with manure in its main product. Killer Jack in the Box, after all, is still selling strong.
The other vivid detail from an NYT story last week is that a Georgia poultry slaughterhouse raided by immigration is now hiring “men from a nearby homeless mission.” I assume they’re slightly better groomed than the bums shaking coffee cups on my corner. But I’m not sure I’d want them anywhere near my wings. There are worse things than salmonella in chicken potpies.
You know it’s predawn in America when food manufacturers start begging for more regulation. In a week when E. coli was detected in lettuce yet again, even after all the blustering from the same Pinocchio who also promised to rebuild Katrina, the WSJournal reported that private companies have come to realize they need public help policing what they sell. To quote the president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, “A strong FDA is in our interest.” And when big business gets hungry, government has to feed it. Grover Norquist, the phone in the bathroom is ringing. Your salmonella tub is about to run out of water.