Plat du Jour, November 1, 2012: Food and the November 6 Election
The election is now just five days away and the campaigns now intensify even more with the calendar having turned the corner to the month of November.
Foreign policy, the economy, balancing budgets, values, and individual rights are all of course taking their appropriate positions as the headline subjects the Presidential candidates are covering in the last days as they criss-cross the country’s “battleground” states.
How about food with the Presidential election? Well, we do know that President Obama loves Chicago style pizza (though rumor has it his favorite actually is from Pi in St. Louis) and he enjoys a Ray’s “Hell Burger,” a spot in Arlington, Virginia, from time to time. But we’re not voting on who prefers burgers to roasted chicken.
Food safety and the role of government in food safety inspections, along with deciding what we can eat in schools or purchase with food stamps are the more important food-centric subjects debated between Governor Romney and President Obama.A former college classmate of mine Helena Bottemiller, with The Food Safety News, covered back in September some of the major differences between the two candidates in regards to the role of government with food. Not surprisingly, Gov. Romney supported less government interaction, while the President provided examples of the programs that he and the First Lady have created to help the country avoid hunger and stay healthy.
One thing for certain: both candidates understand how important it is today to combat obesity. The question is, should the government simply say, “Don’t eat this,” or should the government actually take strides in prohibiting certain foods and beverages, à la New York City banning soft drinks to be served above a certain size.
There will be no official endorsement provided here. However, it is clear that one tremendous area of sincere passion for the President and the First Lady is to provide nutritious lunches to America’s schoolchildren. Another clear passion for healthy and fresh food is provided by the emergence of the White House’s organic garden.
It isn’t easy for the government to battle the major food corporations that control most of what America eats and do so at reasonable, easier to afford prices than buying fresh produce.
It is truly astonishing to see how our view and the importance of what we eat has changed over the past four years. The Obama Administration has had a lot to do with this. Yet, we ultimately must choose the candidate who will continue this growth. It is vital to be aware of what we eat and who produced it. It is vital to provide subsidies to the crops necessary four our diets and to support the hard-working agriculture industry providing us with a balanced diet.
We can’t all have a garden like the White House. But, we can take steps forward. A vote should be for which candidate in make these steps forward happen: can America do it on its own or does it need some government intervention?
Meanwhile, the major food proposition for the country is California’s Proposition 37, deciding whether or not genetically engineered foods sold in the state should be specifically labeled as such. Around 40% of food products are estimated to have some form of genetically engineered ingredients. This can vary wildly, from a fresh pluot being cross-pollinated between apricots and plums to the impossible to spell or pronounce chemicals in several manufactured items.
It could cost the state over $1 million annually for the labeling. Also, various loopholes would allow for items like milk to be genetically modified, without the label. As the ads in the state love to say, soy milk would get the bad reputation, while modified milk would walk freely.
As many chefs and food writers nationwide have clearly mentioned, why not support knowing more about what we eat. This practice is already done in much of Europe. When you see who supports the proposition versus who is against it, it’s certainly a dual between chefs and food writers who take the sourcing of ingredients very seriously versus the Big Food Corporations who stand to lose lots if Prop 37 is passed.
The cost is worth the reward in this case. If you care about what you eat, you want to know what you’re eating.