Saturday, March 8, 2014
Your article citing Petite Jacqueline as a possible source of campylobacter infection ("Portland bistro probed as possible source of food-borne illness," June 27) provides an opportunity to compare the risks and rewards of Maine's developing local food movement with those posed by the industrial food delivery juggernaut that has dominated our culinary lives for the last few decades.
The possibility that the bistro Petite Jacqueline was a source of food-borne illness should not overshadow the fact that consumers face a far bigger threat from mass-produced food, a reader says.
2011 File Photo/Derek Davis
I would rather take my chances with locally raised rare beef and raw-milk cheese than with mass-produced hot dogs, deli meat, chicken, eggs, hamburger, cantaloupe, spinach, salad greens, etc., raised hundreds or thousands of miles away with numerous opportunities for bacterial contamination as it is picked, sorted, processed, packaged, stored, shipped and ultimately displayed for our convenience.
Before the industrialization of food, a sick cow or chicken could infect only a few people, and food-borne illness remained a local problem. Now we are faced with an industrial food system where a single point of contamination is able to spread sickness from coast to coast.
We in Maine are extremely fortunate to have small, locally owned restaurants with adventurous chefs who support local farms, who have learned the art of making their own charcuterie, who will serve shellfish raw, beef cooked rare and, most important of all, have rediscovered the flavor that industrial food traded for salt, sugar and fat. The food is great, and if there is a problem in a kitchen, it remains a local problem.
Do we need sanitary practices and inspections in restaurant kitchens? Of course we do. But let's remember that the risk of food-borne illness from locally raised and prepared foods is extremely limited when compared to that from mass-produced foods found at a supermarket or chain restaurant.
Yes, everywhere we turn there is risk, but some risks are easier to swallow than others.
Series shines bright light on actions of state agency
I applaud your recent series "The Lobbyist in the Henhouse" (June 16-18) on the LePage administration's subversion of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Subversion is "a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within." Working quietly, the administration radically cut enforcement, harassed, pressured, gagged and hobbled employees, battled the product stewardship law and the Kid-Safe Products Act.
DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho and other officials responded by refusing further interviews. The governor "won't talk" to the Press Herald or sister newspapers.
What they are willing to say is usually hard to believe. Take, for example, the remarks about the Flagstaff Lake issue. The DEP betrayed the people of Eustis when it let the clock run out but claims it was a mere oversight.
Why all the secrecy? Isn't Gov. LePage proud of his environmental record? For a man so passionately devoted to "the people," why so shy?
Could it be that "the people" might not approve? Nothing else explains his mushroom theory of management, "keep them in the dark and feed them manure."
When the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram shone the bright light of public inquiry, it did the state of Maine a great service.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." -- Thomas Jefferson
(Continued on page 2)