Idea Of The Day

Space Food

Certain food regulations and standards wouldn’t exist were it not for the space race of the 1960s. NASA, keen to protect its astronauts from bouts of food poisoning, asked nutritionist Howard Bauman to produce meals free of potentially stomach-upsetting—and mission-ending—microbes. The method Bauman established to ensure food hygiene was called “ Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point,” and its significance would extend well beyond the space program. Food companies, eager to produce cheap, safe food, adopted Bauman’s regulations. The result: neutral but nutritious food products—for example, so-called “plastic” cheese.

These standards don’t please everyone. In Europe, they are considered by some to be a further example of damaging Americanization. Slow Food, an Italian gastro-environmental group, has had considerable success overthrowing such regulations whenever they have been imposed on small food companies and farmers. As Alexander Stille explains:

Slow Food flexed its muscles when the European Union tried to enforce uniformly rigid hygiene standards for all European food. … The standards have helped to keep astronauts from getting sick in space and are used successfully by corporate giants such as Kraft Foods, but would have imposed impossible burdens of reporting, paperwork and new equipment on thousands of small farmers, driving them out of business. Slow Food started a petition that was signed by half a million people, and eventually Italy obtained exemptions for thousands of artisan food makers.

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