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Food Practices Banned in Europe But Allowed in the US (motherjones.com)
320 points by casca on May 8, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 197 comments



The most sensible European regulations of those listed in the article kindly submitted here are

"What Europe did: Banned all forms of animal protein, including chicken litter, in cow feed in 2001."

and

"What Europe did: In the EU, all antibiotics used in human medicines are banned on farms—and no antibiotics can be used on farms for 'non-medical purposes,' i.e., growth promotion."

I'd like to see the United States follow that lead immediately, and I write this as a man who has several uncles and cousins who are farmers, including some who raise cattle. It makes sense to me to have lines of defense against transmission of animal-infecting, and especially antibiotic-resistant-animal-infecting, microbes to human beings, by controlling what animals raised as lifestock eat and how they are treated with veterinary medicines.

For the other regulatory practices mentioned in the article, especially washing chicken carcasses, I'd like to see more detailed evidence of the safety trade-offs involved in the practices of the United States and of Europe. I'm less sure on some of the other issues that science actually supports the European practice.


The fact that you have to qualify your comment with your links to farmers puzzles me. I mean, I understand why you did it, but it's puzzling to me that attitudes are such that you need to. The Brave New Antibiotic-Resistant Apocalypse will hurt farmers just as much as the rest of us, after all.

The way I see it, farmers should be leading the charge to ban non-medicinal antibiotics use in farm animals. The current situation is causing a tragedy of the commons. The commons in this case is antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Every individual farmer is better off if they use non-medicinal antibiotics than if they don't, but they're all collectively better off (along with the rest of us) if none of them do. In short, the current market is forcing them to act in ways that are bad for humanity. If I were a farmer, I'd seriously dislike that, and lobby for laws that made it possible to do the right thing.


You'd be right, if farmers were free actors.

For poultry farms, farmers are essentially sharecroppers. They are paid a fixed fee to grow chickens owned by Tyson/Perdue/etc.

For beef farms, ranchers birth and keep cattle for a specific period of time, at which point they are sold to feedlot operators. The feedlots have thousands of cattle are where many of the nasty issues with disease/etc come from.

Farmers are not very politically powerful anymore. The next layer up in the agribusiness chain can control pricing and have all of the power.


Surely the same argument applies - mass agri-business can see the coming apocalypse too.


Sorry, you'll need to speak up. I can't hear you over next quarter's share price hitting the floor.


I said "You will have to merge your agri-business with the daily delivery of fresh food to my house, making around 20x the profit on your produce if you capture the end to end market"

Hell, I agree but there has to be some solution - look at Mr Money Mustache. I know what he says is sensible. But I still have an unaffordable mortgage (my kids need a good school!) and buy lattes each day (I like them)

This is just exactly the same thing.

You know what, I like a Nanny state. I need more Nanny.


Sorry, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that I'm here to do something for you.

Excuse me, my shareholders are calling me.


No, that's the bell, tolling

:-)


Except that farmers are also addicted to the hormones and other supplements that cause animals to grow larger and quicker, which in turn requires antibiotics to deal with the subsequent infections. Modern agriculture is on a downward spiral of alternating new practices with needing to mitigate health effects.

This American Life had a great TV episode on modern pig farming that I highly recommend watching on this subject. I believe it's this episode titled Pandora's Box:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-31gON1Ius


It's not a qualification, he's establishing his credibility and impartiality in the discussion.


This has nothing to do with "farmers". Cow 'production' uses only factory workers now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harris_Ranch#cite_note-post-9


"Cow 'production' uses only factory workers now."

I suppose I should ask the folks around here (ND) about that line. On second thought, I am pretty sure they would have some words for me.


>Banned all forms of animal protein, including chicken litter, in cow feed in 2001.

Saw a Dirty Jobs segment some time ago in which a Nevada pig farmer picks up all the waste from several casinos' buffets, hauls it out to his farm, hand-picks the plastic and other inedible crud out of it, liquefies it, steams it to kill off some of the bacteria, then feeds it to his hogs.

My first thought was that it was pretty clever of him to find a near-zero-cost source of food for his pigs. Then I thought a while longer and realized that those buffets serve a whole lot of pork. Some of which goes uneaten and into the trash... he's turning his pigs into cannibals! And then slaughtering them and selling the meat to the buffets. "Better eat that bacon, boy; three generations of pigs gave their lives for it!"


Pigs are omnivorous and naturally eat carcasses of other pigs or in the case of packs of wild boar, sometimes even kill other pigs to eat them. Feeding pigs with food containing bits of pig meat (like human food leftovers) is not ideal but it's not a very serious situation.

Cows, on the other hand, are herbivores. Their digestive system cannot properly handle animal protein and this can have disastrous consequences. BSE, aka. mad cow decease is a symptom that is caused by feeding cows with animal protein, in particular from other cows. This decease is not caused by a bacteria or a virus, but a wrong kind of protein that ends up in the brain.


BSE has nothing to do with a digestive system that can't handle animal protein. After all, the human digestive system handles animal protein just great, but we can catch BSE by eating contaminated food even so.


Humans can get BSE (or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease) from eating contaminated meat, but the meat gets contaminated in the first place because cows or other animals eat protein that they can't handle and produce misfolded proteins called a prions.


Is there any evidence that the misfolding occurs due to the inappropriate digestive system? I've never heard of this, and some quick searching around shows nothing of the sort.


Pigs are safe from BSE, so feeding pigs pig meat has nothing to do with BSE.


Of all the animals, I get the feeling trying to regulate what goats or pigs eat is going to be a loss. Pigs have been used as "garbage disposals" for a long time by many groups. There is a decent historical reason for some religions to ban the eating of such animals. Parts of the Old Testaments are after all a health manual for their time period.


Is there a health concern from pigs eating pig meat, or is it just something that seems gross?


My understanding is that it increases the risk of an infection spreading - any agent that survives the slaughter/cooking process could infect a much larger number of animals. See the BSE epidemic we had in the UK a number of years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_spongiform_encephalopat...


I saw that episode but never thought about that part. Waiter! I'll have the eggplant tartine today.


> "What Europe did: Banned all forms of animal protein, including chicken litter, in cow feed in 2001."

I think this came in the aftermath of the Mad Cow Disease that affected the UK in the mid-'90s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_spongiform_encephalopat...). I know that UK does not necessarily mean Europe, but nevertheless, that was really huge no matter where in Europe you happened to live, it showed that an entire industry could vanish over night just because of bad industry practices.


Prions absolutely terrify me. Primarily because they are so difficult to kill, er.. destroy. They are basically the zombies of infectious particles.

http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080701/full/news.2008.926.ht...


Alzheimer and other dementia are also probably the result of an a priori prion-like phenomenon.


I'm interested to see someone else take this stance. A large part of my PhD is based on ideas relating to this, but it's not a (currently) widely held train of thought. Are you involved in this area at all?


I recall an article a year or so back that implied that Alzheimer’s could be transmitted between mice if certain proteins were moved from a ‘sick’ mouse to a healthy one. I cannot recall the authors or even the journal, but I am sure you read it, if it was of relevance in any way.



Mad Cow Disease did not hit only the UK (France, for instance, was also significantly hit). But anyway, for this kind of regulations, it is definitely at the European level and it is quite likely MCD is the reason for it


UK was hit worst, but other european countries were affected as well. I was pretty young when that happened but I still remember the images of piles of cow carcasses being burned on the open field.

The MCD was the reason to ban feeding animal proteins to cows. Before MCD it was common practice to feed ground animal (cow) bones and leftovers from the slaughterhouse to cows.


I did some work with a guy who was asked to figure out how much accelerant was needed to burn a pile of cows. I knew burning them was a last resort, I hadn't figured that it was actually hard to do.


There's a lot of water in animal bodies. I guess it's like trying to light a log of very wet wood, if not worse.


> For the other regulatory practices mentioned in the article, especially washing chicken carcasses, I'd like to see more detailed evidence of the safety trade-offs involved in the practices of the United States and of Europe.

There was the relatively recent story in Forbes[1] (HN comments at [2]) about the difference in US/UK treatment of eggs, where the UK standard is to leave them unwashed to protect a natural anti-microbial coating, and the US policy is to wash and artificially disinfect them (at the cost of removing the original coating)

There are some similarities there, and I'm curious about whether the additional cleansing steps are necessary, or part of a process optimisation that allows for more variation in the cleanliness of incoming birds (ie: permitting a faster/messier slaughter or whatever)

The alternative, that it's something like the ammonia used to kill dangerous pathogens in 'recovered meat', is (IMO) more of a concern.

Purely speculation on my part though.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/nadiaarumugam/2012/10/25/why-ame...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5325540


I'd lean more toward your second comment. One of the comments on the previous HN coverage inferred that leaving the eggs unwashed was so that dirty eggs would never make it to the consumer -- thereby encouraging farmers to keep a cleaner chicken coop.


This is going to be a bad post because I'm not where I can look up and provide links to the supporting material, but from what I recall the cleansing of eggs also had to with different egg distribution models between the US and UK.


No, the different distribution model (refrigerated in the US, not so in the UK) is because washed eggs have to be kept cold, while unwashed eggs do not.

As far as I can tell, the only reason for the US clean-disinfect-keep cold regime is that it ensures consumers get pretty-looking poop-free eggs -- and, as a not inconsequential byproduct, don't accidentally get bird poop and its assorted nasties into their food.


Feeding cows chicken litter isn't a big deal, it's not just chicken poo, but the uneaten or spilled food, the bedding material, and pieces of feathers. Runoff from chicken litter causes a lot of issues for rivers and streams, and it can't always be used for fertilizer. Feeding it to cows to improve their mineral uptake, it has about the same caloric value as hay, and it's higher in protein.


HN kicks up an almighty fuss about any attempts to regulate our industry (see online payments, sales taxes, etc.) but we are happy to pass judgement on others.

In Europe we can barely stop people from selling horsemeat as beef. I'm not sure how effectively we are implementing any of these rules, and I'm sure a farmer who wishes to do so can flout them at will.

One positive thing to come from the rise of supermarkets and chains is that their own brands suffer when their suppliers fuck up. They alone have the power to police their producers. And we see this in this article with McD's et al pushing for higher standards.


> HN kicks up an almighty fuss about any attempts to regulate our industry (see online payments, sales taxes, etc.) but we are happy to pass judgement on others.

In every industry, the people within the industry think that "they're different" and because they're morally upstanding they don't need to be regulated, but all those other fuckers, well they need to be kept in line. On HN you see this very clearly with attitudes towards the tech sector versus the financial sector (meanwhile my non-tech friends wonder why Facebook and Google are allowed to basically stalk you through the internet).


In my view the horsemeat-as-beef scandal demonstrates that the system works and that mislabeled meat gets detected. In this case the meat was perfectly edible, it was just mislabeled.


Was it perfectly edible? My understanding of the fiasco is that it was not simply calling horsemeat beef or some other meat. My understanding is that the horsemeat found in packages originated from meat labeled as not for human consumption, meaning that particular horsemeat had not gone through the same safety inspection normally given to meat which is labeled as for human consumption. To me, this seems that the horsemeat might not be perfectly edible.


No it wasn’t – horsemeat if meant for human consumption is edible, but meat from racing horses, for example, isn’t. Those having to dispose of such horses even have to pay the renderer for their service, and this was the real problem here, even though the media tended to get more concerned about ‘HORSE meat!!!!’.

But, as the GP said, this so far seems to be a singular incident of a single producer trying to make an extra profit, which I don’t really think justifies throwing the entire system overboard.


True in most cases, but there was at least one Dutch company that also mixed rotten meat into its products.


Do we know how long the horsemeat went undetected, though?


If memory serves me correctly, around 6-12 months.


A bit less: http://www.bing.com/search?q=horsemeat+scandal+timeline&... p=-1&sk=

They think it started in August 2012, and it was detected in January 2013...


I don't ingest web applications and startups as the raw source of energy required to sustain my basic bodily functions. Food must be held to a higher standard.


The article is also a little slanted, in that the described only those practices permitted in the US, but banned in the EU.

There are many practices where the reverse is true, such as the manufacture of certain cheeses from non-pasturized milk being permitted in some parts of the EU, which can lead to a number of diseases.


The example you're using applies to traditional products that otherwise couldn't exist, and who's consumers are well aware that it's made from non-pasturized milk.

That's a completely different issue from your standard supermarket meat of which consumer blindly assume that it's safe.


true, and also: the amount of people eating those cheese is nothing in comparision with the amount of people eating more 'normal' food, like meat.


The article is from a publication which wants policy change in the US. I guess they don't care as much for the welfare of us Europeans :)


The flipside of this are things like the banana regulation, more commonly known as Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94.[1] I believe it's now rescinded under ridicule but there are people who try to deny it even existed. It's well worth reading in full on eur-lex for riveting prose like "the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis".[2]

Regulations over the official ingredients of jam, battles over who has the right to make certain types of sausages, the list goes on. It's harder for legal systems other than the common law because of the way they work but I'm of the opinion that we should at least trial putting a word count limit on the total body of law and regulation.

A more depressing tale of regulatory woe, given the rocketing suicides and unemployment in Greece, is that of the bookstore/café that can't sell coffee and frequently can't sell books.[3]

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_Regulation_(EC)_No_2...

[2]http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLE...

[3]last three paragraphs http://economistmeg.com/2012/02/27/note-from-athens-feeling-...


If your comment about "right to make certain types of sausages" refers to the various protections around food actually coming from a particular area I actually think that is a good thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographical_indications_and_t...

After all (to pick an example from the news today) - if something is described as "Stornoway Black Pudding" I'd like to believe it actually came from Stornoway:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-2244...


You mean like the traditional Croatian wine Prosek being banned from sale because it sounds too similar to prosecco which was developed long after (and they are different types of wine).[1]

Or the feta cheese I buy from Germany that can't call itself feta and that anyone in day to day conversation will refer to as feta.

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/23/us-croatia-food-eu...


>Or the feta cheese I buy from Germany that can't call itself feta and that anyone in day to day conversation will refer to as feta.

And that anybody that has eaten actual feta will tell you immediately it's a bad imitation (often with the wrong process and/or ingredients).

(Same goes for any "feta" sold in American supermarkets, at least Kroger, Walmart etc that I know of (as in the US the point of origin protection doesn't hold). Also real feta is NEVER sold in crumbles, as you often find it there).

Whereas American may like their food standardised by restaurant chain (I can walk into any X chain and get the same food), in Europe it has traditionally be standardised by region (local cuisine, etc).

So think of it the same as Burger King being unable to name a product "Big Mac". Only instead of protecting/benefiting just some private chain, it protects/benefits a whole country/region where the food was first developed.

Those protections, besides having rules for the "point of origin" also have strict guidelines on the ingredients etc. So you know your feta is X% milk etc, fermented for Y time, etc, and not some random cheap knockout.

Of course, nothing stops a company from selling the same product, or a different mix. They just can't name it feta. They can include a sign like "feta like product" though.


>bad imitation (often with the wrong process and/or ingredients).

But who is to decide? Imagine if the same thing happened to hamburgers or endless other common things. although understandable the reasoning is already flimsy when it's a region but when it's applied to generic names which have been around for a very long time then who is to decide?

For example, I come from Melbourne in Australia where we have the world's third biggest Greek speaking population after Athens and Thessaloniki. Many came before Greece's entry into the European Communities. Feta means slice, "φέτα", so they can't sell a slice of cheese in the EU, made perfectly in the traditional manner, calling it a slice in their own language as they have always done? They are Greek citizens (as well as Australian), they speak Greek, they've been making that cheese since forever I can't see how you can retrospectively then say people can't call it that. As with the case of the Croatian wine, it's vandalizing history and existing linguistic practice.


>But who is to decide?

In Europe it's easy: the region that created AND named the stuff is to decide.

>Imagine if the same thing happened to hamburgers or endless other common things.

It already happens, just not in a regional level but a corporate one. You cannot call your burger a "Big Mac" or "Baconator".

Also remember that the names we're talking about are not generic as "hamburger", but specific. Feta is a specific product, whereas the analogous to your hamburger example would be if a region has a monopoly on "cheese".

>Feta means slice, "φέτα", so they can't sell a slice of cheese in the EU, made perfectly in the traditional manner, calling it a slice in their own language as they have always done?

Feta is the word for slice, but is also a specific name for a specific cheese -- not to be confused.

(The fact that they are Greek citizens doesn't play any role, the right for Point of Origin protection went to Greece, not Greeks in general. Else any company worldwide could hire some Greeks or some French, and say it makes Feta or Champagne, etc).

>they've been making that cheese since forever I can't see how you can retrospectively then say people can't call it that.

Well, that "forever" is merely a century or less, since most of them weren't longer than that in Australia. Compare this with over two millennia of Feta tradition in Greece.

In any case, it's an EU law to protect the regions that create specific stuff and the consumers. Without it our supermarkets would be full of crap sold as "X", made for cheap in some foreign country with no quality control, and sold as genuine X. We love our original, and quality/origin protected food a lot to let that happen.


I do think the current situation around feta is better than the previous confusing one, where lots of products which were clearly not feta were allowed to be labeled as "feta". But I personally would prefer that methods/contents be regulated rather than location of production.

I do think it's a good thing that what used to be called "Danish feta" is now "salatost" ("salad cheese"), because it is simply not feta. But I sympathize with the French, Israeli, and New Zealand feta that's no longer allowed to be called "feta" in the EU, because those countries do produce some genuine feta, in every sense except being produced in the wrong location. On the other hand, I think the same of champagne, and I doubt France would be willing to trade the exclusive right to the word "champagne" in return for getting to call some of their cheese "feta"...


I see what you mean, but I find it also helps protect traditional regions that came up with the thing first, so I'm for it for that reason. Sometimes other places can duplicate the methods/contents, but they still lack the definitive knack than the region that invented the stuff has.

And since the product was also named in the region, it's only fair for them to be able to use it. Now, the French might not get feta but they get Champagne protected, and generally everybody region benefits somehow.

And it's not like patent laws, where you cannot put out a competing product. It's merely like a trademark: you have to name it differently. So, if the french feta is OK, it still has a chance to catch on, just under a different name.


> They just can't name it feta. They can include a sign like "feta like product" though.

No, if the name is a protected name it can't appear on the label or any advertising. Champagne is from Champagne. There's no such thing as 'wine produced to the champagne method', even though some Cava (etc) are produced to that method.


Most of the feta cheese you buy as "feta" that tries to be and still isn't real feta is actually cow milk cheese. The taste and texture is different, so the product shouldn't be called feta. The fact that people colloquially refer to things by the wrong name shouldn't allow producers to mislead me by labeling things with the wrong name.


It's a big gray area for me.

What if someone followed the traditional methods and ingredients of real feta, made the best feta cheese you ever tasted in your life, BUT it was not made in Greece. Should that be allowed to call itself feta?

I am against monopolies generally, and this geographical indicator stuff around products that have existed for centuries (Champagne, Bordeaux, Bourbon, Parmesan, Chablis, etc) rubs me the wrong way. It's granting a small region a monopoly on a descriptive word that everyone uses to describe the product, with no indication of quality anyways.

What if Diamonds had to come from Russia or else they were not allowed to be called diamonds? Or if sugar had to come from America or else it had to be called something else?

Confusion would reign. Its unfair competition, really.


Bad examples:

* Champagne is a sparkling wine made with a specific method from a specific kind of grapes grown on a specific soil in a specific climate. You can reproduce the method elsewhere and use the same grapes, but you can't reproduce the soil or the climate. Hence, the end-result is different. It's a sparkling wine and there are a lot of sparkling wines that are equal or better than a mediocre champagne, but they're still champagne.

* Bordeaux is nothing more than a regional specifier. It encompasses the climate and the soil found there. It neither indicates quality nor taste - though many people associate it with both due to some of the best wines being produced there. What would any consumer win if all of a sudden wine produced in Berlin could be labeled "Bordeaux" - the one person winning here would be the seller. Is that fair?

* Cheese is even harder. Roquefort derives much of its taste and character from the microclimate found in the caves around the town of Roquefort. Something similar is true for Parmesan: Each cheese labeled as parmesan must be made by a specific recipe and is checked by a local authority. So I guess you could make the same product and ship it to Parma and have it certified - but would that be worth it?

Neither of the words is a descriptive word such as "Diamond" or "Sugar". The descriptive words in your cases are "Sparkling Wine", "Red Wine", "Whisky", "Hard Cheese". It's a brand name, like iPhone is Apples particular type of smartphone and Nexus Googles type.

All in all: What would the consumers gain if all of a sudden all blue cheese was roquefort and all hard cheese parmesan, all red wine Bordeaux, all whisky Bourbon and all sparkling wine Champagne? Pretty much nothing.

(*) Sidenote: Wiener Schnitzel must be veal in germany. If it's made from pork it's "Schnitzel Wiener Art". Now, that's stupid.


Those sound like debatable edge cases.


Yes, that's a truth-in-labelling law rather than an exclusive right to make a product. "Champagne-method sparkling wine" can come from California, "Champagne" has to come from a particular region of France.


The lack of a requirement for truth in advertising, labeling, news, etc drives me nuts.

*"After being fired, the couple successfully sued under Florida’s whistleblower laws. However, Fox won on appeal as courts found FCC regulations against news falsification was a policy, and not a law. Fox then countersued in 2004 for court fees and legal costs."

http://consumerist.com/2006/08/30/fox-news-reporters-fired-f...

Meaning it's perfectly fine to knowingly lie. Some tortured rationalization about free speech. I'm sure that's exactly what the founding father's had in mind while writing Second Amendment.

I'd take the free market zealots a lot more seriously if they were spear heading the fight for consumer protections as a precondition to deregulation.


That'd be the First Amendment.

Unless you think free speech and the right to bear arms are the same..


Well you have to make sure that others really understand and listen to what you’re saying…


The "geographical indications" are a simple trademark landgrab (pun intended). The geographical regions are trying to recapture exclusive use of a genericized term. Think trampoline, escalator, zipper, and aspirin. The goal is to exclude competitors and increase profits.

Next up: France will assert control of the terms french bread, french toast, and french fries, but only to eliminate them as inferior food products.


If it is exactly the same besides the origin, why does it matter?


It's rarely "exactly the same". Champagne made in France and Feta made in Greece has specific ingredients, requirements etc, defined by law.

In places where those laws don't apply, they make cheap knockoffs with different ingredients mix, laxer process etc, to sell cheaply. Danish or American feta, for example, is nothing like actual feta. At least Denmark cannot name it "Feta", whereas US companies can, thus misleading the consumer.

Second, even in cases where it's exactly the same, it's a "point of origin" protection, meant to protect the original region that made the product.

The same way that BK cannot name one of their burgers "The Big Mac", but for a whole region/country, not just one private company.


In the USA, you can't sell onions as "Vidalia onions" unless they're a specific species grown in a certain part of Georgia where the soil has very low sulfur content. It produces a sweet onion that you could only get with specially prepared soil anywhere else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidalia_onion So, you can imagine with something like sausage, where there are many ingredients that are subject to local conditions, it would be impossible to regulate all the criteria for being identical to sausage made in that region, and it's easier to just limit by geography.


OT: Suddenly the name of the Tor control panel project[1] makes a lot more sense.

[1] https://www.torproject.org/projects/vidalia.html.en


I've always viewed it as similar to a regional copyright protection in that a region is allowed to advertise that only it produces the "real" product. Much like any shoe manufacturer can create a shoe exactly like Nike, but only Nike can advertise as actually being Nike.


The problem arises when it isn't the same. Black forest ham, for instance.


For context, you always have to keep in mind why those laws exist.

What is the goal that is towering above all else for the EU? The one it has actually been relatively successfully implemented? Creating a common market, of course!

For a common market to exist it is obviously not enough to open up the borders to people, labor, goods and capital. It is also necessary to have common rules and regulations for the goods and services sold throughout the common market. If that weren't the case, individual countries could easily erect trade barriers between them (through rules that are mutually exclusive, e.g. so that a Spanish manufacturer of wine harvesters can't export her Spanish harvesters to France, at least not without massively changing the production process and in essence opening two manufacturing lines, one for Spain, one for France).

So the EU parliament gets this stack of laws on fruits from 27 countries and is told to turn that into one unified law for the whole of the EU. That's basically what's happing. The EU is not so much in the business of making new regulations, it very often just unifies.

Now, it's important to stay vigilant throughout this and pay attention and tell the EU when it screws up, but I do not see any kind of systemic issue. I think it all works pretty well for what it is.


"What is the goal that is towering above all else for the EU? The one it has actually been relatively successfully implemented?"

I thought it was an attempt to stop Europe engaging in endless major land wars.


Well, yeah, but those two things are connected.

For Europe to not even want to have any war among themselves, for Europe to find the idea of war among themselves to be completely ridiculous and idiotic, it is necessary for Europe to be meaningfully interconnected and interdependent. Treaties have again and again shown to be not up to that task. Bilateral or multilateral treaties of the olden times are mostly political in nature, and anything that is just that can also be reversed through a mere political process.

That interconnection and interdependence has to be created on a deeper and actually meaningful level. The economy is really the obvious choice here, since no political process can even attempt to reverse interdependence of that kind easily.

Plus, it’s sort of obvious. Just as the industrial revolution was hindered by the many tiny kingdoms in what is now Germany (and the huge amount of borders you had to cross and tolls you had to pay if you wanted to ship a product from anywhere in what is now Germany to anywhere else in what is now Germany) – that is, until Germany was unified in 1871 – the many borders in Europe could have hindered Europe globally more had that process towards a common market not existed. It’s the same thing, really, only that I don’t think political integration (beyond creating a common market) has much of a future.


It was, but since then the means has become the end.


I wonder how on earth people got through life before we had the government protecting us from misshapen banananas.


Sigh. I feel like you didn’t quite understand the point I was making. I don’t think ridicule is in any way an appropriate response.

On a basic level this is not about regulation. It is, of course, in some way, but only a roundabout one. Regulation in EU countries already exists. National regulators have been regulating stuff here forever.

EU regulators very often do not wake up in the morning and think "What laws can I add today?”, they mostly think “How can I best unify those complex and already existing laws into one cohesive whole that makes some sense, taking into account the interests of all 27 member nations?”

Now, that’s a hard problem to solve, but it is very often not driven by any sort of desire to create more regulation. In fact, if you are a company operating EU-wide (or just a number of EU countries) the complexity of laws you have to adhere to may even go down with a unified EU law, even though the EU law may be more complex than any single law in any single EU member country.

It’s a messy process and it’s far from optimal, but I think it’s pretty much an EU wide consensus that the goal of the EU is not to abolish regulation in any kind of grande way. So unifying it is.

(It is, of course, also through that through now more and more unified laws the decision process on regulation now moved to the EU level. Where laws are already unified, decisions about future regulation are made on the EU level.)


This thread reminds me never to open a business in Europe.


I ain't a nationalist, but I am a regionalist :)

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/... (EU pop. is .5 billion btw and a rounding error off global #1 in GDP terms)

We'll survive without your business methinks.


Old Europe strikes me as a place that is great for oligarchs with political connections and lots of capital for regulatory compliance costs, but bad for low-capital scrappy startups. I guess that's why most people in Europe get a job working 40 hours a week for The Man where they can't be fired and take lots of vacation.


You can't keep making blanket statements about so diverse a region without eventually offending someone or making yourself look foolish.


battles over who has the right to make certain types of sausages

What do you mean? There are people in England who think that the EU is going to ban British Sausages being called "sausages", forcing them to be called "emulsified high-fat offal tube".

It was actually a joke from the political satire show "Yes, Minister" from 1984 (watch the clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzeDZtx3wUw ). There are a lot of euro-scare stories in England of similar levels of ahem reliability.

The European Commission in the UK has a blog where they try to rebut false stories in the UK media ( http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/blog/index_en.htm ). (The UK's Health and Safety Executive also has a "things that are mentioned in the UK media which are wrong" section http://www.hse.gov.uk/myth/index.htm )


Thanks for the knee-jerk anti-British rant, and I am very well aware of Yes Minister as well, but I was actually referring to this case.[1]

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17706290


In fairness, speaking as a British person, we do fucking go on about EU regulations. Or at least the media like to kick up a fuss.


In all honesty, British sausage probably should be renamed.


Most of all, all "german sausages" sold in britain show how much the brits still hate us krauts. Each and every one is an insult to every living german - and probably to the dead as well.


There is one shining beacon of hope! I try to visit every time I'm in London.

http://www.herman-ze-german.co.uk


Rather than trying to ridicule the "banana regulation" and "sausage naming rules" you should do a bit more reading on the true advantages for consumers of classifying fruit and vegetables by quantifiable and tangible aspects (size, shape, colour, etc.); and stopping scams by implementing designation of origin legislation on produce such as sausages. The economic impact of these are measured in billions.


I too would find it naïve at best to think that the EU was perfect; everyone knows that it isn't.

I don't understand your complaint about civil law, though; why is common law better than civil law? Civil law has the added benefit of being fairly simple and court rulings not making precedence.


Because it's FOREIGN!!!

(unfortunately accurate satire....)


Regarding the Greek cafe, there are plenty of crazy regulations like that in the US, usually centered around alcohol.

For example, in Virginia (where I live), ordinary stores can sell beer and wine, but nothing harder. Liquor can only be sold in state-run stores. I suppose the intent is to discourage consumption of hard liquor... and it seems to work on me. The state-run stores are inconvenient enough that I go for softer fare instead of tracking one down.

I knew a couple who bought a gas station and turned half of the convenience store part into a restaurant, while keeping the convenience store part open as well. They had a license to sell alcohol, but not a license to serve alcohol. You could go over to the convenience store half and buy a six-pack of beer, but you couldn't get a beer in the restaurant, and you couldn't bring the beer you had just purchased.

I recently moved into a newly-constructed house. One of my neighbors had to delay their move-in date by a couple of days, because the builder forgot to paint the curb yellow behind the house to indicate that it was a fire lane, and the county wouldn't give them an occupancy permit. This street has plenty of "fire lane" signs, has very little curb at all (it's mostly driveways), and nobody in their right mind would park on it, but it had to be done. The builder rushed the job, and a few months later, basically all of the paint has flaked away and nobody seems to care. Somehow, this was unacceptably unsafe when we were moving in, but it's fine now....

The Greek example sounds worse, but of course a singular example is hard to draw a lesson from. I imagine we'd all benefit everywhere if regulations were treated as a means to an end rather than ironclad law, in any case.


Alcohol laws in America are crazy. In Kentucky, there's a joke about how you know you've crossed a county line when the potholes end and the liquor stores begin.

I live in Minnesota, where our liquor laws date back to the era when being a liberal meant you were for women voting and against ANYONE drinking. It was a big deal when we finally got to keep bars open til 2am, a few years back. We can't buy alcohol in stores on sundays, and grocery stores can't sell anything stronger than 3.2 "near beer". You have to go to a real liquor store for even wine and beer, much less hard liquor.


I never really understood how certain political factions can go on and on about supposed government control over our lives, all while completely ignoring pervasive crazy alcohol laws. Why can't I order beer over the internet? Why do I have to go to a state-owned store to buy vodka? Why don't these people who complain about "big government" ever bring it up?


Libertarians bring it up all the time. Here's a quick google search of a libertarian web site for "liquor laws"

https://www.google.com/search?q=liquor+site%3Areason.com&...


Yeah, but libertarians are a pretty small number of people. Most of the "small government" crowd is different, sadly.


Most of the small government crowd is partially libertarian. They ain't perfect, but you can get their votes on a number of libertarian issues.

They get a bad rap on the internet because the Republicans (whom they normally vote for) need religious conservatives to make a winning coalition, but they still do good. For example, the only obstacle to the internet sales tax is the House Republican caucus.


My understanding is that incumbents have interests in keeping things the way they are. Some states ban stores buying liquor directly from the manufacturer (in theory to make sure liquor stores don't cheat the state out of tax) thereby creating a state granted monopoly to certain lucky distributors. There are industry lobby groups that oppose liberalizing alcohol law (as are certain conservative lobby groups).


>A more depressing tale of regulatory woe, given the rocketing suicides and unemployment in Greece, is that of the bookstore/café that can't sell coffee and frequently can't sell books.[3]

To be fair, that's a greek thing and not an EU thing.


> "the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis"

Oh, look, a good definition in a legal document. Don’t people normally complain about ambiguous laws leaving interpretation open to the courts[0]?

> Regulations over the official ingredients of jam

So that consumers can buy jam everywhere in the EU and get more-or-less the same rather than (possibly annoying) surprises. The problem here arose because the word ‘jam’ (or more precisely, ‘marmelade’) was used differently in different parts of the EU prior to regularisation. I am happy about it.

> battles over who has the right to make certain types of sausages

Everybody can make any type of sausage, what they cannot do is claim that said sausage was made somewhere else. What exactly do you find unreasonable about that?

> It's harder for legal systems other than the common law because of the way they work but I'm of the opinion that we should at least trial putting a word count limit on the total body of law and regulation.

So you prefer to have such regulation spread not only over a defined body of laws but also over each and every court decision made within the last n hundred years? On the contrary, I would argue that civil law is inherently superior to common law, as it puts the legislation where it belongs (the legislative, i.e. parliament, and, by extension, the various ministries) and gives consumers and businesses security that, if they follow said legislation, they have a reasonable chance of doing everything correctly, rather than having to take into account court decisions on the other side of the country or hope that the court in question will invent new laws according to the way they want, rather than their legal opponents.

There is absolutely no reason to impose a total word count limit on the body of laws. There is a reason to keep that body of law reasonably organised, accurate and easily understandable, which is usually the case, and more so in the EU than the US (otherwise, legal fees would be much higher in the EU, as people would require more help understanding the law, right?).

> A more depressing tale of regulatory woe, given the rocketing suicides and unemployment in Greece, is that of the bookstore/café that can't sell coffee and frequently can't sell books.[3]

Well, that’s what you get for becoming less and less competitive and instead extending bureaucracy more and more to accommodate more and more public officers, paid for by cheap credits, assumed to be backed by more sanely operating economies. Greece’s fault, you could only blame the EU for allowing them in.

[0] Or are you just annoyed that this is measured in millimetres rather than imperial attolightfortnights or similarly ridiculous unit?


>Oh, look, a good definition in a legal document. Don’t people normally complain about ambiguous laws leaving interpretation open to the courts

Yes you have a "good definition" in the law there, but what is the law for? It can't have been too important if they repealed it and some people deny its existence.

>Or are you just annoyed that this is measured in millimetres rather than imperial attolightfortnights or similarly ridiculous unit?

The anti-British sentiment in this thread is astounding (I use metric by the way).

The sausage name is shared across regions due to a historical legacy, people who have traditionally enjoyed it should not have language and culture taken from them for the purposes of profits. See my post above on the feta rule being historical and linguistic vandalism.


> but what is the law for?

Ensure a given standard of quality in a consumer product.

> The anti-British sentiment in this thread is astounding

Britain has in the past been perceived as a nation first bullying its way into the EU and then hindering any further integration. That such sentiments crop up in a thread on EU regulation (a pet peeve of Britons, apparently) is not surprising.

> (I use metric by the way).

Yay you! And really, I was just looking for something that could be considered wrong with that sentence you found so amusing.

> The sausage name is shared across regions due to a historical legacy, people who have traditionally enjoyed it should not have language and culture taken from them for the purposes of profits. See my post above on the feta rule being historical and linguistic vandalism.

Firstly, let us clarify that the sausage case has been resolved, with Slovenia having their (Slovenian) word protected, and the German analogue accepted for the sausages in Austria, cf. [0].

Secondly, I agree that feta is somewhat of a edge case, were I would prefer to see the recipe rather than the place of origin protected, as the latter is not immediately obvious from ‘feta’ (contrary to Champagne, for example). However, even then does the idea of ‘regional trademark’ make some sense to me – but, as I said, this is an edge case and doesn’t really have to do anything with the thickness of bananas or the hygiene requirements of chicken.

[0] http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/economist/766208/


Yes you have a "good definition" in the law there, but what is the law for? It can't have been too important if they repealed it and some people deny its existence

AFAIK, that law was actually a protectionist scheme to favor African (ex-colonies) banana producers against South American ones in EU markets.


Something that most people forget about the fruit and vegetable standards - gradings other than the finest can still be sold to the public. Just most supermarkets chose not to.


There is nothing ridiculous about that regulation. 80% of it is common sense written down. The line you quote is describing where to measure the thickness, since it varies across the length.

According to the article this regulation is still in effect.


See also "Why American Eggs Would Be Illegal In A British Supermarket, And Vice Versa"

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nadiaarumugam/2012/10/25/why-ame...


And the associated hacker news discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5325540


|"You know how arsenic goes inorganic—and thus poisonous—in chickens' guts?"

Correct chemistry but perhaps misleading to non-chemist readers. This is one reason that I oppose product labels advertising "green, organic, natural" products. I cannot help but think that some fickle readers will draw some association between inorganic and poisonous.


I prefer the German and Scandinavian descriptor "ecological food", rather than "organic food", partly for that reason.


> I cannot help but think that some fickle readers will draw some association between inorganic and poisonous.

Which is exactly the intended reaction. The Organic Industry is big business now.


A reasonably informative article.

It must pain HNers in US that if they perceive these items as problems then they have little access to tasty unpasteurized cheeses which would help ease the blows.

http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/consumers/ucm079516....

I'm from Oz originally, and they unfortunately ban unpasteurized cheese too.


I think you've been slightly misinformed.

You can get raw milk and cheese all over New Hampshire, including in supermarkets, and apparently many other states for that matter[1]. I never even knew there were restrictions in some states until your comment.

Apparently, even where raw milk/cheese is banned in the U.S., cheese produced from raw milk is legal as long as its been aged for more than 60 days.

[1] http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/raw_milk_map.htm


I toned down my language to 'little access'... this was all just a tongue in cheek reference to another EU - USA difference.

Your link is good information... there are many states where it looks quite difficult to get unless you have a local farmers' market


Huh? The selection of both pasteurized and raw-milk (local and imported) cheeses at the little local co-op here in northern New England is astounding; far more options than I’ve seen in all but the best cheese shops abroad—-I can get all of my favorite foreign cheeses here, whereas I’ve never found my favorite american cheeses while traveling.


I have no trouble getting access to raw milk cheeses in Chicago.


Would you have trouble if you had a picnic in Wisconsin and forgot to pack some ?

http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/raw_milk_map.htm

simonsarris kindly helped me out ( myself being in the UK )


I don't know. I don't picnic in Wisconsin all that often. If you're not from the US, you should be aware of Wisconsin's peculiar relationship with dairy; they wear it on their heads as much as eat it.


My wife and I made strawberry ice cream from raw milk and raw cream just last week. It's easily available in California, just like unpasteurized cheeses.


Brie de Meaux honks like stale feet anyway! Seriously, opened some up in the car once, big mistake, it stank for ages.


> Brie de Meaux honks like stale feet anyway!

Not sure what your point is, it's still delicious. Also brie is not the worst smelling cheese by a very long shot. Maroilles is way worse and used in tarts (a common saying is that after you make a maroilles tart you have to throw out the oven).

And of course they have nothing on (non-cheese) surströmming or hákarl


I just meant that you're not necessarily missing out, IMHO.

Brie in general I love. But the only time I've tried brie de meaux from unpasteurised milk it really, really stank and I didn't care for the taste either. And I will eat most ripe and blue cheeses happily.

I've yet to try surstromming after being warned off it by a Swedish friend. Of course he didn't seem to like any Swedish food so may not be the best person to listen to on that count!


> I just meant that you're not necessarily missing out, IMHO.

If that's what you meant, I can only state that, as far as I'm concerned, you're definitely and unambiguously wrong.


Stinking Bishop and Epoisses can clear a house


Vieux Lille FTW! I have family in Nord Pas De Calais who dip it in their coffee in the morning.


The FDA banned interstate commerce of unpasteurized milk products (except cheeses aged past 60 days). This means that companies cannot produce unpasteurized products in one state to sell in others.

However, despite the interstate commerce ban, some 29ish states have various states of unpasteurized sales, ranging from allowing it in grocery stores to only allowing it to be sold from the farms.

In my state, raw milk products cannot be sold at grocery stores except where allowed by federal law (cheeses past 60 days).


The US is now the control group to see if these practices make any difference. There's no reason to implement any of them unless someone demonstrates that Europe has a better outcome on the various claimed side-effects.

For example, if honeybees fare no better in Europe than the US, then we can eliminate the theory that neonicotinoids are a problem.


I'm not sure that's the only difference, though.


1. Being from UK where we have just had months of "how the hell did horsemeat get into every burger and lasagne meal?", the idea Europeans have this food business sorted is laughable.

2. All western countries have high standards in food processing. The differences are arbitrage not horrors that will kill us all, as this article rather lazily implies.

3. processing food is mostly the problem. Processing meat is almost the whole problem.


I don't see where TFA aruges that the food business in the EU is sorted, rather that many practices which are rightly illegal in the EU are legal in the US.

Murder is illegal everywhere, but that's not to say it never happens.


Newspapers here drool over the high standards of food safety in the USA, and literally faint when they find a drug on sale here that the FDA has banned. These things are par for the course - the Germans and UK have very different meat handling laws - but somehow mass food poisoning are rare and all that seems to happen is we get fatter.

Most of what is wrong with our food chain is meat orientated extraction processes pushing low quality cheap reclaims into foods that are overly processed. We know this. It's not a secret nor is it illegal. Nor is it banned in any country.

It's just dumb. The Mr Money Mustache of food would laugh at us.


> the idea Europeans have this food business sorted is laughable.

It was a scamdal. and it IS sorted out. And EU has the regulations in place, as opposed to USA.


>And EU has the regulations in place, as opposed to USA

You don't think the USA has food regulations?


How can you take such decisions while considering only the purported benefits and not the costs as well? Let's take antimicrobial sprays for example. They presumably protect some consumers from food-borne illnesses. Shouldn't this be balanced against the risk of rashes and such? If say we estimate antimicrobial sprays save a hundred thousand salmonella etc. cases a year at the cost of ten eye irritations, maybe they're not such a bad deal after all.


There are more costs attached to it: Using antimicrobial sprays or antibiotics in abundance tends to create resistant strains and the products enrich in the food chain. The same effect could be created by just using proper hygienic conditions in the slaughterhouse - but that would cost more and require some spoilt food to be trashed - such as the trimmings from beef. Instead it's treated with ammonia and sold as ground beef.[1] Enjoy.

[1] http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_19947.cfm


>The same effect could be created by just using proper hygienic conditions in the slaughterhouse

That's a pretty strong assertion. How did you find out that equivalent hygienic conditions could be created in slaughterhouses at a moderate cost? Aren't antibiotic sprays just getting the germs that got through, despite reasonable precautions being taken?


> How did you find out that equivalent hygienic conditions could be created in slaughterhouses at a moderate cost?

Simple: Meat is not terribly more expensive in the EU than in the US, people don’t regularly die from food poisoning here[0] and such measurements are prohibited in the EU, hence it must be possible to ensure hygiene with different means at similar, possibly slightly higher, costs.

[0] At least not more often than the US, I would assume.


The article asserts that the increased usage is to compensate for speeding up the kill lines - so less precaution.

Bacteria-related food poisonings due to spoiled meat are pretty rare in germany and since the practice is forbidden here I assume it must be perfectly viable, albeit properly more expensive to create proper conditions.


>The article asserts that the increased usage is to compensate for speeding up the kill lines

Yes, but we're not talking about restricting usage, this is about banning them altogether. It would be interesting to know how German producers dealt with the ban. Hopefully it didn't lead to an increased use of other chemical products that aren't banned yet but soon will be etc.


I'm no expert on this, but given what I know about food safety the practice would need to be explicitly allowed. I'd be very surprised if such a practice has ever been allowed. Same holds for other chemical products.


The US has roughly 42,000 reported cases of salmonellosis each year.

The "asthma and other severe respiratory problems, burns, rashes, irritated eyes, and sinus ulcers and other sinus problems" are occupational hazards associated with the practice, not hazards to consumers of the product.

The author is saying that some committee in the EU has banned the practice, and are unlikely to have done so without weighing costs and benefits.


Externalities, unintended consequences.

Regulating for public safety must consider the global view.


Meanwhile in Europe unpasteurized raw milk (good/bad?) is allowed to make cheese and wooden force feed geese to produce foie gras, horse meat and marmite yeah there I said it. I bet European countries have a lot of "traditional" foods grandfathered in even though barely safe. I'm sure the blame game can be used to make the US or European countries look bad.

Although it's great if rules can make us safer and animals lives better but even though there are some good rules and common sense to get rid of antibiotics, heavy metals and nasty pesticides. But this strikes me as noses turned up especially quoting radical animal rights groups such as the essentially ten year old Humane Society of the United States organization (pretty much ex-PETA extreme extremists took it over) .


Another thing that is not practiced in Europe (to my knowledge) and allowed in the US is fluoridation of water.

There is scientific proof that fluoride is a potent neurotoxin[1], and yet the government continues to insist and require fluoridation of water.

------------

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride_toxicity


Well, of course it's a toxin. There's a reason it's added to water: In small amounts, it is not harmful to human health but is harmful to bacteria that cause cavities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation#Safety


However, brushing after meals with fluoridated toothpaste solves the problem.

Again, the (local) government(s) choose(s) to legislate rather than educate.

Shouldn't one be allowed the freedom to choose whether he/she wants fluoridated water or not? Why not install a fluoridation pump per household rather than at the mains?

Offer people a choice.


>However, brushing after meals with fluoridated toothpaste solves the problem.

It doesn't. We have it in water because, really, people need to fluoridate their mouths more often than is practical through teeth-brushing alone.


This is the problem any time an industry gets big enough to control legislature in Congress. It's happened in finance and it's happening in agriculture. Practices that are most likely detrimental to the long term health of the population continue apace because it makes someone a lot of money. Changing that at the governmental level is almost impossible, not to be all cynical and jaded. The American consumer has long decided they were only going to choose on price and it's a lot cheaper to have agriculture in the state it is than to fix it.

What you can do is shop locally, start a garden, support local farmers, start hunting and fishing, etc. Is it harder and more expensive? Yup but that seems to be the state of affairs we find ourselves in. On the upside, growing food in a garden is extremely fulfilling.


Realize the USDA is primarily tasked with promoting agricultural business, only secondarily protecting the public. Guess what takes precedence. The FDA is also limited in anything affecting another agency's primary area. Thus FDA cannot affect usage of antibiotics in animal feed.


It's a big turn off to me to see these kinds of purely political articles on HN. I like my life somewhat compartmentalized -- I'd like to be able to discuss technology, science, and startups with people without getting dragged into "OMG the US government is bought by industry!"


Agreed. It's been described as the redditification of HN, and will only get worse as the site gains popularity


This is one of the reasons why any possibility of a significant "free trade" agreement between the US and EU is virtually non-existent.

Their principles, economies, and output across a large range of sectors are much more different than many care to admit.


I wonder if livestock producers still feed Arsenic to livestock meant for organic products? It would be a shame if they do this by exploiting the technicality that Arsenic is entered through the feed in "organic form".


Here "organic form" means organic as in organic chemistry, not organic food.


And yet if your arsenic comes from a "natural source", you can feed it to animals and still call them organic.


Is there a good way to buy only products that avoid use of these chemicals?


Whole Foods. Whatever else you say about them (or their prices), they've made these issues easy to deal with as a consumer.

http://wholefoods.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/a...


Frustratingly (as a frequent Whole Foods shopper), the top of the page raises the question of "What about added hormones and antibiotics?" and then never provides an answer.

Found the answer on another section of the site though: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/our-meat-no...


Most of them involve animal products, so eating vegan would help.

The first two would be more difficult to avoid. I think the first one can be avoided by buying organic corn. Avoiding rice fertilized with arsenic manure would be more difficult. You could try buying rice at a farmer's market and asking the seller what he fertilizes with.

FWIW, I've been trying to eat vegan for a few months now and it's surprisingly difficult at first. A surprising number of the weird ingredients in everything are derived from eggs and dairy. I was vegetarian before, and I still had to make some big changes to my diet. I like that it's made me think about what I'm eating, though.


All seven practices relate to animal foods, with the exception of a possible trickle-down effect on rice arsenic levels. Whether a vegetarian/vegan diet is a 'good way' is up to your taste.


Except that many outbreaks of salmonella occur from greens sold loose and packages in super markets. Quite a few large scale farms use animal waste in one form or another to fertilize crops.

I would prefer they settle the irradiated foods disputes and use that to clean up much that is done with chemicals. I have seem far less its unsafe than safe yet radiation is a boogeyman that is hard to beat.


Quite true, and indeed, partially-treated municipal sewage is used on crops in many places, which gives me pause. It happens to be the case that this article focuses on deficits in our meat supply, and wider reading suggests that animal food safety is in fact poorer on many spectra.


In the US, "certified" organic food can't use treated sewage as fertilizer.


Buy local.

I live in central Illinois, so it's fairly easy to find local (within 30 miles) producers of most raw foods (meat/veggies/eggs), with the exception of milk. While this may be difficult in some parts of the country, I find getting to know local farmers and buying directly from the ones that do not use these practices (farmer's markets are great for making those connections) is the easiest.

Though, as I said, I live in a farm rich region, so it may be much easier for me than others.


Hu? Why does the fact that the farmer is next to you have anything to do with his process?

So if I buy from that same farmer you go to, but I'm hundreds of miles away I suddenly get those chemicals but you don't?


> Why does the fact that the farmer is next to you have anything to do with his process?

It doesn't. It does, however, have everything to do with discovering what that process is. I walk up to a farmer at a local farmer's market and say, "Hey, do you feed your cows chicken shit?... No? Cool, can I buy some steaks from you?"

Obviously there's better ways to present the question, but you get the point. It's far easier to discover the process directly (and IMO more reliable) than to follow the supermarket->distributer->packager->slaughterhouse->farmer chain to find out what the process is.


So you don't actually mean buy local.

You mean ask the farmer.

But it's not really all that hard to find this out even for bulk packaged meat if it's branded - just call that single company and ask.

If it's unbranded from your butcher then ask him. (Although admittedly he might not know.)

In all three cases it's just: "Ask".


Live in Europe?

/me rins


I would say "buy organic", but organic farms just use "organic" versions, and I'm not 100% clear on what that means.

Anyone know the rules for "organic" foods in terms of pesticides, fertilizers, etc?


Really? I eat lots of organic food and have previously researched this, I tried google and its very easy.

Pick up any organic product. It has a sticker "USDA Organic" with white on top and green on bottom. Wikipedia has a great article on "National Organic Program" which is run by the USDA. The NOP website is at:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

The blanket reg is CFR 205.105 which references each class of substance separately. Its like the overall flowchart. Then other regs list specific stuff. Like "205.603 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production."

So CFR 205.603 says you can use ethanol as a disinfectant only but not in the food, so no white lightning in the food bucket. Aspirin is OK. Vaccines as a blanket order are OK.

(whoops edited to add I think you want CFR 205.601 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. Whatever. Nothing is really unexpected in these CFRs and for a guy with a chemistry background I think some rules are a little weird (Ethanol is synthetic and allowed, but Arsenic is non-synthetic and forbidden? Really?) but the writing style should be understandable by the general public)


I a nutshell, the legal definition of organic (in U.S.) means that organic foods are produced using non-synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. In other words, if the FDA (EPA/USDA? Not really sure what organization handles it) classifies a pesticide as organic, then it's allowable for organic certification in the U.S.


We live in a world where economic growth is more important than health issues. Having a strong economy means having bad health, and somehow the strong economy can repair the health problems it caused.

Problem: recession.


Like a lot of other political decisions in the US - they still choose to go with the unlogical choices which in this case would be to not implement some of these bans. I guess there are commercial interests behind these decisions like the gun politics, alcohol laws, etc. What else can you expect in this semi-corrupt country?


The fact that the US doesn't care wether or not we eat these harmful things is outrageous. Quite honestly, I don't see why they wouldn't ban it because those who let this slide and know about it are probably eating it too.


By the way, same for Canada except #3 and #4 which have been banned.


7. Gestation crates

These were banned in the UK in 1999. The EU has just brought in a law banning them, but a lot of countries are still not fully compliant.


For this one:

4. Chlorine washes for poultry carcasses

the EU is currently looking at implementing something similar using substances such as ozone in solution or steam.


With the difference that steam is not exactly as toxic as chlorine, and even ozone is likely to be less of a problem.


Yes, but that something needs to wash the chickens due to bacteria.


I am not saying that the problem (dirty chickens) doesn’t exist, I am saying that there are likely superior solutions to that problem which don’t risk leaving an extremely toxic and reactive substance on my food.


Profit is more important than public health. This will end badly for the people.


Wonder if things are any different if you are on a vegetarian diet?


Don't worry...we'll throw you in prison if you don't pasteurize your milk.


In Europe many of the laws tend to try to follow good moral principles. In the USA it would likely be the same if Big Business didn't have such a massive influence on law making.


Business has its hand in the legislative process in Europe too. Europe's not some corruption-free idealistic utopia.


>Europe's not some corruption-free idealistic utopia

I never said it was. Just in general Europe is driven more by what is good for the people, not what is good necessarily for big business.

How else do you explain the gun laws of USA despite the numerous atrocities committed by people with easy access to huge quantities of ammunition and semi-automatic weapons? Can you say that the NRA has nothing to do with the gun laws in the USA?

How do you explain the inclusion of so many European banned substances in common food production in the USA? The alternatives are generally more expensive and less convenient, yet they are banned in Europe, not USA.


It's written into our Constitution, which is very difficult to change? A significant portion of our population doesn't desire a change to gun laws?

And the point of the banned substances is that they're less expensive and more convenient. That's why they're used. Whether they're harmful or not is up for debate, but I don't think businesses use them because they don't work...


>It's written into our Constitution

Of course it is. Other things like free speech etc that are also in the constitution are being run over because it suits the government and Hollywood, yet the right to bear arms has barely been touched, in fact probably expanded. I notice that no-one addressed my point about the NRA influencing gun laws. Also, where is it written in the constitution that ammunition should be available in Supermarkets?

As to your point about being harmful is up for debate: Antibiotics in the food chain is a major cause of current immunity issues with disease causing agents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance

Yet the practice has not stopped in the USA despite the evidence. There are so many other examples, I really don't understand why some people here don't get it - the USA legal and political system is probably more influenced by big business than any other Western democracy. If not the worst, then close to it.


We need more advanced Gardens and 100% recycling of everything we use, the system must have a working circular flow. No Genetic engineering, or processing of our food.

It took billions of years for the nature to create the foods that are perfect for us, we cannot create something better (in a few hundred years).

I wish that someday the entire Human race on Earth will be as enlightened as the people in Star Trek.


> It took billions of years for the nature to create the foods that are perfect for us, we cannot create something better (in a few hundred years).

Bullshit. We created those foods. Our staple crops and domestic animals have all been genetically engineered via selective breeding and trial and error for millennia.

Food processing - making bread, cheese, salted meats, canned foods etc. from raw materials - allowed us to move out of the hunter gatherer existence into a society that sends robots to other planets.


I honestly don't understand why you are so aggressively against my opinion? Genetic-engineering isn't bad per se, I see huge value of it in Reversing the genetical damage (esp. RNAi and siRNA therapies).

I said: "..we cannot create something better (in a few hundred years)."

You said: "We created those foods". [..] all been genetically engineered [..]

Where is the proof that these processed or genetically engineered foods are better? To clarify things, we DID NOT create those foods, we modified them. Creating is food is clearly something entirely different. We've not advanced that far in Bio-sciences.


> I honestly don't understand why you are so aggressively against my opinion?

Because statements like "took billions of years for the nature to create the foods that are perfect for us" are false and absurd. Nature didn't create foods to be perfect for us. The goal of natural selection was for those organisms to survive, not necessarily to be tasty to humans, and most of the foods we eat were modified by us to our liking.

It's the same sort of argument anti-vaccine nuts use. "We were fine before vaccines!" No, we weren't. Millions upon millions died of easily preventable, natural diseases.

> Where is the proof that these processed or genetically engineered foods are better?

Try surviving off wild bananas or the wild grasses we bred into wheat and rice. They're harder to digest, yield less, etc.

> To clarify things, we DID NOT create those foods, we modified them.

And? We're doing that with GMO foods, too. Humanity hasn't yet created even a single-celled bacterium from scratch, let alone a corn plant.


> It took billions of years for the nature to create the foods that are perfect for us, we cannot create something better (in a few hundred years).

Nature has no such intention - in fact, in most cases, evolution favours inedibility. Even simple processing methods like leaching out toxins with water probably made our food much better.

Fruit has evolved to be edible, but it's hardly perfect for us - it's more like a sugary treat. Milk might be the only thing we consume which has evolved as a nutrient source for creatures like us.


> It took billions of years for the nature to create the foods that are perfect for us, we cannot create something better (in a few hundred years).

Technically it's not that nature created those foods for us to be perfect. It's more like that the available food has shaped human evolution. Those individuals who could make best use of those foods, also had the best chance of passing their genes onto following generations.

This evolution continues today, probably even at a faster pace, especially since we are processing foods to the limit.


Nature's bananas are bloody awful.




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