Glad The State Agrees That My Aunt Helen Wasn't Trying To Kill Me
Thanks to our food overlords in Madison, you won't have to work dark allies in hopes of finding a guy in a trench coat whispering, "Psst. Wanna buy a jar of home-canned dill pickles?"
The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel hints at a bit of legislative hypocrisy when it contrasts the easy passage of a measure that makes it legal to privately sell preserved veggies and the drama surrounding raw milk. Lawmakers okayed a measure permitting the sale of unpasteurized moo juice, only to see Governor Jim Doyle spike it. Seems his veto came after state dairy interests got to him, warning of dire consequences for everyone who pulls an utter if someone gets the bends after quaffing a mug of something that came straight from a bovine and not from a label-baring jug.
My Aunt Helen never sold any of her pickles, jams or jellies but she should've since they were often better than the stuff you found on the grocery store shelf. Her kitchen was cleaner than any hospital operating room or computer chip assembly lab, and I can't remember EVER getting so much as a stomach growl after ingesting any of her home-canned produce. Her picture should've been on a label, and her stuff should've been available to all at the corner mega-mart. Aunt Helen wasn't an entrepreneur, though. She was just a generous relative with a huge garden, an acre of Mason jars and a knack for preserving cucumbers.
Is everyone as clean and thorough as my late relative? No. The libertarian in me, though, says the inner Smucker in us should be allowed to roar, and that the market can decide if a stranger is guilty of passing unsafe gherkins. He or she who's trying to make a buck off a cloudy jar of baby dills will soon be sitting at the loneliest table at the farmer's market once word got out.
Same for raw milk. If a farmer wants to sell it, and folks want to buy it, let them engage in commercial intercourse. If said cow squeezings relegate the buyer to a night of gastric distress or worse, safe to say the customer won't be back. And, he'll probably keep the jar the stuff came in, just to spite the seller.
What about our beloved dairy industry, you ask? What if word gets out of a milk-borne outbreak, and the national dairy buying public decides to take it out on the product that puts Wisconsin on the map and gives us a nifty slogan for our license plates?
Remember alar? Do you still eat apples? Remember the recent outbreaks involving questionable lettuce and other produce? Didn't keep you from the salad bar, did it?
Memories are short and panics aren't nearly as likely to happen. We're really good at getting information to consumers on recalls, defective products, and unsafe food. You won't need any messy lot numbers to figure out what made a raw milk buyer sick. All you'll need is a rural route number and the wisdom to avoid shopping at that address.
Our government does a pretty fantastic job monitoring what we cram into our heads. We've never had such variety and availability of produce at local stores, with many exotic items there to be had year-round if you're willing to pay the price. We eat out more than ever before, trusting others to prep, cook and serve us meals without fear of picking up any wee-beasties. Yes, there's the occasional blip and sometimes even a significant outbreak, but they're almost always tracked down quickly with the damage being kept to a minimum.
I congratulate Madison for exercising some seldom-seen common sense and allowing the average Joe and Joan to sell their home-canned produce. I wish our farmer friends would be getting the same courtesy, but the dairy lobby apparently is stronger than the consumer's thirst.
And, Governor Doyle's spine.