Can Food be Good and Clean?

29 Oct 2006

At 3pm on Saturday October 28, a conference was held at Terra Madre on ‘Health and safety regulations and small-scale producers’.

The debate revolved around the following issue: the guiding precepts of Slow Food are good, clean and fair. Can these three coexist or do they contradict each other?

The focus was particularly on the relationship between clean, as in hygienically controlled and not harmful to the health of the consumer, and good, the sensory quality of the food.

The participants included veterinarians and producers, the controllers and the controlled. To represent the former was Professor Grasselli, president of the Italian Society for Preventative Veterinary Medicine, and speaking for the latter was Piero Sardo, president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

One of the principal problems related to the interactions between the two sides is the level of risk, namely how much consumers are willing to risk their health in exchange for quality. Piero Sardo, starting from the premise that “the elimination of risk is impossible,” espoused the viewpoint that it was necessary to take certain limited risks in order to have an excellent product, using the example of raw-milk cheese.

While not advocating anarchy, Sardo said he didn’t agree with excessive regulation, particularly in Europe, that goes too far towards extreme hygiene at the expense of quality. Some regulations discriminate against small producers, requiring restrictively high costs that only big countries can pay.

Grasselli responded that he also wanted to help protect niche products, but that as a vet his job was to monitor production. Most problems arrive from disinformation and a lack of dialogue between the controlled and the controllers, and could actually be easily resolved, he said.

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