Monday, March 1, 2010

Tabasco Sauce and the Right to Eat Food

Hamilton Polk, employee of McIlhenny for over 40 years
Click for an excellent CNN video about the company and its history

Tabasco sauce was invented in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a Maryland-born former banker who had moved to Louisiana around 1840.  The banks in Louisiana had collapsed after the Civil War, so Edmund needed a way to make money.  He put up 350 bottles of his own pepper sauce recipe, packed in old cologne bottles, and distributed them locally.  Today the company remains a privately held firm, presided over by Paul C. P. McIlhenny, sixth in a line of McIlhenny men to run it.

It is a great story of a family business.

Of course, today you would have to have licenses, permissions, and inspections from the state health board, OSHA etc., plus NSF-approved equipment, tables, cabinets, refrigerators and utensils, plus you would have to contract with a food laboratory to perform an analysis so you could put on those FDA-required content labels -- before you could even think of selling such a "food product", even to your friends.

I note that Wyoming recently defeated the "Food Freedom Act" that would have exempted road-side farmer-owned stands and farmer's markets from such requirements.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a private farm cooperative was raided by an armed team because they would not allow health inspectors in.  This seems to be a new trend, with similar cases of Gary Oaks in Cincinnati, Richard Hebron in Michigan, Mark Nolt in Pennsylvania, and Nature’s Juice Co-op in Illinois.

There is no "right to eat food" enshrined in the Bill of Rights (although all possible rights are supposed to be reserved to the people, with only those few powers listed in the Constitution given to the government -- but we left that behind long ago).  I guess the founders of our country never imagined that the government would ever want to control -- at the point of a gun -- what people could and could not eat.

Right now, it is illegal for you to buy a gallon of milk from your farmer friend who has a cow.

My great-grandfather would be totally disgusted.

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