TRUSTWORTHY TESTING

            Test it.  Test it.  Test it.  We hear that all the time to insure food safety.  I'm going to tell one more story from my two days touring poultry micro-processing facilities in Vermont and Massachusetts.

             Part of federal inspection is periodic testing for E. coli and salmonella.  You'd think that would be straightforward.

             But you have to realize that only a handful of labs in the nation do this sort of testing, and 95 percent of it is from the industry.  Just like you get cozy with good customers and friends, the same thing happens in this tight-knit fraternity.

             Industrial poultry processors, inspectors, and testing labs.  Have you ever heard the word collusion?   Anyway, this small operator sent in his test and it failed the standard.

             He sleuthed out the handling of his sample and it turns out the lab left it out at room temperature for 12 hours before running the sample.  It's supposed to be kept at refrigeration or preferably on ice, until the test is run.

             Was this negligence?  Was it sabotage?  Nobody can know, but there is mounting evidence of a push back within this tightly knit fraternity to get rid of small facilities.  They're not considered efficient and they certainly aren't considered macho  You could almost say they're the feminine side of the industry.

             At any rate, when consumer advocates demand regulations for testing, this is the kind of thing that happens in the hinterlands.  So can you trust them?  One small operator in Kentucky sent in a sterile water sample as his chicken sample and it came back supposedly full of E. coli.  Crazy.

             So testing.  It ain't as easy as it sounds.  You can't have testing without trusting, and those of us on the edges of the food movement have zero trust in the system.  What we have is a commodity system and a craft system.  The two are completely incompatible; different goals, different, morals, different values.

             So whenever folks ask for "government oversight" without differentiating the craft from the commodity, it inherently destroys the craft end of the equation.  That's the ugly truth and it should make us all pause before asking for more "government oversight."

             Have you been guilty of asking for indiscriminate additional "government oversight?"  Are you ready to repent?