Today, I will make up for it with a lively discussion, some amusing links, and a queez later.
By now, none, some, many, or all of you may have heard about the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has approved LMP 102 for use on ready-to-eat food. If you keep reading, you'll know more about it than you probably want to, certainly more than the major news outlets want you to.
So what the hell is LMP 102?
It is a melange of bacterophages used to destroy the most deadly (statistically, based on rate of infection) of all the bacteria we consume through mass market products, listeria monocytogenes.
O.K. So what? Some company managed to figure out a way to nail a problem that has been a big killer for a long time, right? Pop the champagne corks!
However, when you look at some of the background data, it quickly becomes apparent that there is something up here. This is a problem which kills 20% of the people it affects, which comes down to something like 2500 people a year stateside?! I think there are that many people in the surrounding five blocks of my local C-Town who eat these foods. Lord knows my roommate is making up for any who are not.
The FDA approval means that hot dogs, lunch meat, snackables, and (woe!) potted meat products will be treated. All the wonderful foods that are pre-cooked, but not delivered cooked. Also, or you veggies/vegans out there who just considered not caring, they will probably use it on fruits and veggies as well.
In fact, most of you guys are probably already dealing with this, while the rest of us cruel meat eaters are new to the problem. There are already many phage-based pesticides used in organic farming. Don't ask me how that is more healthy than a chemical pesticide, but I guess it has less overall environmental impact. This means that you can enjoy peaceful rivers and lakes, complete with soaring eagles and hopping fish while you die of cervical cancer. That's right. The same bug that they genetically modified to create that vaccine is the same one they are using this process to kill in your lunch meat or broccoli (as the case may be). Somehow, I don't think the marketing demographic for $12.99 a pound organic grapes and $2.99 a dozen hot dogs share much venn diagram space.
I looked, but could not find any numbers estimating the number of consumers of lunch meats ad hot dogs out there. It has to be in the millions. According to one piece of market data, it was approaching a US 5$ billion industry in 2001! That is the type of stat Oscar Meyer usually subjects you to on the sideshow while you are waiting for a movie. My main question is, why the hell is suddenly everyone open to exposure to the potential long-term health effects of the endotoxin byproducts of this phage-treatment process, when the actual problem it solves affects such a small number of people? I mean, an infinitesimal number of people. This would be like re-engineering the lollipop so that dumb kids and negligent parents would never have to face the sad Darwinian reality of a blow-pop suffocation death ever again.
Seems kinda crazy to me. Crazy like banning peanuts from all airline flights to prevent the few dozen people with serious peanut allergies (a fraction of whom could die if they come in contact with peanut particles) from ever encountering them. The difference there, I guess, is that flying on an airplane does not constitute an assumed risk of exposure to peanuts. Personally, I don't view eating/buying a hot dog or sandwich as an invitation to partake in some yummy leftovers of a specialized bacteria fighting program.
I'm not getting all foil-hat about this. The whole deal may be something as simple as government kickbacks to Intralytix, Inc. They certainly have the proper connections (John D. Vazzana, CEO, has many connections to Steelcloud, a DOD pet partner). However, given the fear of genetically altered foods, it amazes me that the FDA is O.K. with this process, but scared of lab-tested food products.
By the way, I am not totally against phage therapy. I first read about it a few months ago, in relation to the opening of one of the new Russian clinics. Using your own bugs to kill those bugs seems a much smarter idea than saying "this chemical compound(s) in these amounts will kill everyone's bugs, despite how diverse and varied your bodies and immune systems are). The Russians have had great success with it, and it certainly seems to be an interesting alternative to antibiotics. The FDA will never approve it here though, because there is no way a major company could ever make bazillions of dollars off of it, since it is an approach which has a cure catered to each patient. Medicine should be like legos people!
The other scary aspect of the whole bacterophage treatment thing is that I first heard about this weeks ago, from a comic strip. How long did we hear about genetically modified corn being used to make fucking nacho chips? The amount of testing that has been done to try to assess long-term effects of phage-treatment of packaged meats is negligible. It is largely based on a few animal studies, and a handful of human trials. That does not appear to be on anyone's radar. Where the fuck is Sheila Brofslosky when you need her?
What is my point? My point is that I bet someone in the TSA knows who dies in the last Potter book.