The Wax Conspiracy

Sorting the Beef from the Bull by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple

This could be in the back pocket of the farm-to-table industry. The further you are from the feed source, or the more opaque its origins, the higher the chances for adulteration or wholesale swapping out for inferior quality ingredients. Like sawdust and chalk. The modern day diet’s roughage.

Stoke all fear in the world and it will still not be enough to trigger people into checking the labels or doing any kind of due diligence about what passes the lips and through their stomachs. It’s a hard ask in any event. The incidents and case studies that hit up the pages of Sorting the Beef from the Bull have it stacked against the lowly consumer. Or at least those who are short on time.

It’s the prep work that gets you. If you’re in a rush, or you’re not sure of what you’re looking for, and the seller knows this, then you’re going to be in the high bracket of fraud victims. Which is to say that of all the things you can do to keep yourself from ingesting a packet of dirt when the label reads “pepper” is to grind it up yourself. The argument to do most of all the cultivation and cooking yourself is clear and rampant as the pages go on.

Then again, who has all that time to know what they’re eating or where it’s coming from? Even that fancy restaurant—where they massage the cattle, teach it sign language and only feed it grass before slicing its throat and spilling blood to create a jelly—may not show you an accurate documentary on its journey from semen to supper. It’s a premium, or maybe it’s not.

From milk powder killing off babies to people quietly upset at eating horse meat (which is slightly better than the sold-as slop) it’s got a range of stories about consumers being cheated and lied to. It’s an awakening to the many cases of how easy and with such abandon the bait and switch happens. There doesn’t seem to be anything left to believe in in the food we stash from the store or from the back of the truck, smoked to an aged perfection with carbon monoxide.

That balance comes in the even-handed scares about the many advances in technology and food fraud detection that keep coming. But only because the scammers and cheats are usually a step ahead in masking agents, fooling the purity readers and all sorts of manipulation techniques. They’re both hurling ahead into the abyss of what’s possible in a semblance of truth and those who still eat via mouth are left trying to filter through the noise of it.

Many are the lookaheads at what else is in the book that it erodes the flow of reading the current subject. They spend as much time talking about where they’re going as what they’re talking about until halfway they break and it’s sailing on from there. Finally. So too are a few common phrases or ideas that pop up again and again. Or maybe that was having to reread another call forward? Either way, prefetching is a short walk to distraction.

Sorting the Beef from the Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics takes the fears of eating anything and puts it on a barbed fence between information and caution. It’s an interesting, revealing read about what’s gone on with the masquerades of food and drink. Ignorance of what we’re eating takes us so far. Most of the time it’s harmless. Then there are the many other times knowing what’s going on makes growing your own grub a good idea to start up again.

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Monday, 12 December 2016

The Wax Conspiracy


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