Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Americans Concern With Food Safety Not Shared By All Cultures

With the recent scandal regarding China and the melamine in pet food, we Americans are finally justified in our concern about food safety.  But I just learned that food safety is not a concern shared by all cultures.

According to Clotaire Rapaille in his new book “The Culture Code – An ingenious way to understand why people around the world live and buy as they do”,  the French are far more interested in taste than safety.

“In France, there is a method of preparation known as faisandee.  It involves hanging a pheasant (the source of the name) or some other gamebird on a hook until it ages — literally, until it begins to rot.” 

He goes on to say that “while most Americans would consider the thought of this alarming, French chefs utilize this method because it dramatically improves the flavor of the bird.  Safety is not nearly as much of a concern for them or the people for whom they cook.”

I wonder about the mindset in the Chinese culture.  I read recently that the Chinese put their tofu in formaldehyde which acts as a food preservative.  Without it, the tofu lasts only a couple of days.  Their customers, other Chinese, don’t notice the difference.

Does Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs explain their lack of concern for safety because they must meet their basic physiological needs first?

  1. CoCo,
    I think Americans take safety for granted which is how and why dog food is so problematic now. If people actually knew what went into dog food — they would be disgusted.

    If you can stomach it, try reading Food Pets Die For by Ann N. Martin. It provides shocking facts about pet food. Canada has more stringent pet food regulations than the United States.

    Places like Japan and some European countries won’t let most American made dog food into the country.

    But enough about dog food…

    If we were truly concerned about the safety of our food, there would be more controls. For instance most fruits and vegetables have up to 20 different cancer causing pesticides sprayed on them and simply rinsing won’t take that poison away.

    Our farming techniques can easily be jeopardized by food terrorism with harmful bacteria and chemicals added to the water.

    Food is not inspected at harbors or ports. Every day at least one food product gets recalled. Just check the Centers for Disease Control web site.

    It freaks me out when I go into the bathroom at any restaurant and a sign on the door says in Spanish and English to wash your hands before leaving. That’s common sense, yes?

    It would be interesting and probably eye opening to compare notes with other countries as to how many food recalls they have compared to us.

    As for China, they are not known for being kind to their animals and have recently slaughtered thousands of pet dogs as an edict of the government. Most people have limited rights.

    If we leave food safety up to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), they have sorely botched the monitoring of prescription drugs…I have no confidence in that agency regarding food safety.

  2. Interesting post. But I’m not so sure American’s are all that concerned with food safety and recognize that the job people do for us in helping assure it is are important.

    For one good example, just look to the 4 month Grocery strike we had here in California in 04′ over salaries and health benefits which affected some 70,000 workers, a few friends of mine, and yes – us the public.

    The end result of it all seems to be that we all lost (as this article points out http://capoliticalnews.com/s/spip.php?article113).

    The concessions the union made to accept 2 tiers of employees (new hires which are basically not getting a living wage or benefits). I question whether they will be as dedicated to their jobs and seeing to it that what we buy won’t make us sick…and we’ll have to see what happens this year as the grocery store workers contracts are again up for renewal…

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