July 5, 2013

Letters to the editor: Local food still consumers' safest bet

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.

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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.

Peter Stanton

South Portland

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

James Maguire

North Yarmouth

Expansion would have aided many hardworking Mainers

The failure to override Gov. LePage's veto of Medicaid expansion was a sad moment in Maine's political history. Thousands of individuals caught in the crossfire of this battle no longer carry the hope that they will have access to basic health care coverage.

Throughout the contentious debate, the rhetoric was that MaineCare is "welfare." This is simply untrue. Thousands of individuals who would have been eligible for MaineCare are hardworking Mainers in low-wage-earning jobs where health insurance is not available.

Potentially eligible recipients also include individuals with disabilities who are unable to work a full 40-hour week and are therefore ineligible to qualify for employer-provided benefits.

Other individuals have spent countless years in the employment sector but, due to health or disability-related reasons, are no longer able to continue working.

To be deemed eligible to receive Social Security Disability Income, individuals are required to show, among other things, that they have the requisite work history.

When awarded SSDI, individuals also become eligible for Medicare; however, they must wait 24 months from their benefit start date before coverage begins. As a result, individuals with serious medical conditions and disabilities are forced to go without much-needed health care coverage.

In order to appeal to the opposition, Maine's proposed legislation would have only approved expansion through the next three years -- the period for which the federal government is funding 100 percent of the cost. If Washington failed to follow through on its promise, Maine left open the possibility of scaling back its expansion efforts.

Unfortunately, this was not enough, and now thousands of individuals with disabilities in Maine have been denied the opportunity for health insurance coverage, which so many of us take for granted.

Sara R. Squires

public affairs director, Disability Rights Center of Maine

Augusta

New slogan summarizes panhandlers' view of city

Re: "Portland unveils new city slogan" (June 18):

In a recent discussion with a friend about Portland's panhandling problems, she informed me her brother is a social service provider in Athens, Ga.

He had just called to tell her that a number of his clients were heading up to Portland, Maine, because the word was out: "Life's good here."

Jay York

Portland

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