What Next?

Pamela Accetta Smith
Senior Editor
(847) 405-4069
paccetta@stagnito.com

The book — now a movie directed by Richard Linklater — “Fast Food Nation” tells the story of America and the world’s infatuation with fast food, from its origins in 1950s southern California to the worldwide achievement of a handful of burger and fried chicken chains.
In a scrupulously researched and powerfully argued account, author Eric Schlosser visits the labs where scientists recreate the smell and taste of everything from cooked meat to fresh strawberries; talks to the workers at abattoirs with some of the worst safety records in the world; explains exactly where the meat comes from and just why the fries taste so good; and looks at the way the fast-food industry is transforming not only our diet but our landscape, economy, work force and culture.
This is frightening to me. The idea that we can recreate the smell and taste of virtually anything tells me the buck ain’t gonna stop here — and even more disturbing, may never, ever stop. It tells me there is a danger in replicating things, a danger in not letting nature take its course, a danger in mass producing practically anything you want, a danger in … well, you fill in the blank.
Really, what’s next?
Oh yeah, cow cloning.
This is equally as terrifying to me. And while I admit terrifying may be a bit dramatic, it is a bit freakish, isn’t it? Three years after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first hinted that it might permit the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring, prompting public reactions that ranged from curiosity to disgust, The Washington Post reports that the agency is poised to endorse marketing of the mass-produced animals for public consumption.
The decision, expected by the end of this year, is based largely on new data indicating that milk and meat from cloned livestock and their offspring pose no unique risks to consumers. Farmers and companies that have been growing cloned barnyard animals from single cells in anticipation of a lucrative market, the Post article continues, say cloning will provide a level of consistency and quality impossible to attain with conventional breeding, making perfectly marbled beef and reliably lean and tasty pork the norm on grocery shelves.
And the same tasty milk?
Surveys show that about half the U.S. population is uncomfortable with the idea of animal cloning for food and milk. The single biggest reason people give is “religious and ethical,” with concerns about food safety coming in second.
Opposition — led largely by the International Dairy Foods Association, which as you know represents such large, brand-sensitive companies as Kraft, Dannon, General Mills and Nestlé USA — put FDA approval on hold. For years the agency has asked producers to keep clones off the market voluntarily while the issues got sorted out, a delay that bankrupted one major company and has left others increasingly frustrated. But now a large collection of new data submitted to the FDA has revitalized the effort, according to government officials and others.
Public sentiment, the Post notes, is a big concern to dairy companies, which fear that any association with cloning could harm milk’s carefully honed image of wholesomeness.
And I agree. Why are we messing with milk?