Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Public Health at the Core of Food Integrity

Amanda Hitt | November 16, 2010

FIC is coming down from a mile high! Last week I was in Denver, Colorado at the 138th American Public Health Association Convention. Over 12,000 nurses, doctors, and those concerned with public health, converged to participate in this year’s APHA Convention themed “Social Justice: A Public Health Imperative.”

Without a doubt, social justice is an important aspect of public health. In many ways, it’s at the center of our work here at FIC. We all eat, and food is a necessary communal resource. Not surprisingly, social and political inequalities arise regarding its access, acquisition, and quality. FIC strives to correct those inequalities by working to alter the relationship of power between the food industry and consumers, protecting the rights of those who speak out against the practices that compromise food integrity, and empowering industry whistleblowers and citizen activists.

Whistleblowers and citizen activists are a necessary part of protecting public health and the integrity of the food system – from soil to plate. In public health terms, they play an important role in “public health surveillance.” That is to say, they report the looming food safety dangers that ultimately guide public health action. With adequate occupational free speech rights:

  • immigrant workers could safely make reports of excessive use of pesticides that endanger food and lives,
  • food processing whistleblowers could warn federal authorities of potentially lethal foodborne illness outbreaks, and
  • citizen activists could spread the truth about dangerous agricultural waste run-off from factory farms.

FIC and our whistleblower mission were in good company in Denver among the many public health advocates working for social justice. For FIC, social justice requires that food is made available through means that are consistent with commonly held values — that food should be produced humanely, safely, and sustainably without exploitation. Equally as important, when these expectations are compromised, workers should be empowered to protect food integrity and public health without fear of retaliation.

 

Amanda Hitt is Director of the Food Integrity Campaign.

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