Food-borne illness sickens over 76 million people, causes 725,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States every year. Environmental pollutants seriously threaten our food and water supply. Waste and contaminates from industrial farming endanger our fragile ecosystem and place us all at avoidable health risks. Animals bred merely for consumption are subjected to unnecessary and inhumane handling creating wholly preventable contamination. Food workers are routinely exploited. Government employees charged with enforcing food safety regulations, far too few in numbers, are prevented from fulfilling their job duties. Citizen activists are silenced by the growing power of industry giants. Clearly, there is a huge problem here and the time for action is now.
Food Integrity Highlights
In response, GAP is building upon its 32 year history of working with food industry whistleblowers to launch the Food Integrity Campaign (FIC). The FIC is strategically designed to effectively address the fields from which our food originates as well as the professional fields that impact food quality and integrity. The mission and long-term objective of the FIC is to enhance overall food integrity by facilitating truth telling. GAP seeks to accomplish this mission by strategically 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 food integrity whistleblowers and citizen activists.
Past Food Safety Cases
The campaign detailed above that GAP is undertaking is only possible due to our track record of success in dealing with major, nationally-known food safety cases. GAP clients have risked their careers to speak out about contaminated and potentially fatal food time and time again.
For three decades food safety has been a significant focus of GAP. In the early 1980s, GAP whistleblowers exposed how the operation of new, highly-mechanized poultry processing plants, coupled with federal deregulation under the Reagan administration, were contributing to mass contamination of product.
Regarding meat inspection, GAP was instrumental in numerous successful fights against proposed deregulations during the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. By the time Bill Clinton was elected, and children died from Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers, GAP was so respected for our food safety work that the Secretary of Agriculture came to us just after the revelations, and worked in our offices all afternoon to reverse course and kill a proposed Streamline Inspection System program that was on track to be ratified.
During that period, GAP was also entrenched in the ‘Food Lion’ wars. During that national debacle, we worked with Food Lion employees to expose their witnessing of serious problems with ground meat preparation practices. We investigated thoroughly, and took our results to the ABC show “PrimeTime Live” which aired a powerful and still-famous segment that directly led to the tanking of Food Lion’s parent company’s stock. That company’s stock has never fully recovered its price, nor has Food Lion returned to its national market share. For ten years, from 1995 through 2005 we fought off a draconian Food Lion subpoena for our investigative materials, never giving in or revealing the identities of our multiple whistleblowers.
In recent years, GAP has addressed the integrity of numerous issues surrounding the “organic” food label. The word “organic” does not necessarily convey the overall integrity of the product. In some cases, it is our observation that dairy animals whose products are labeled organic are no more likely to have been handled humanely in life than if they had been raised on a non-organic farm. Our case involving ‘organic’ mushrooms, supposedly from California, is an example of outright fraud. Through numerous whistleblowers, we had extraordinary internal documents that proved certification documents were fraudulent, and that the product was shipped from overseas. In October 2007, GAP submitted a formal complaint to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) alleging that the mushroom company, Golden Gourmet Mushrooms (GGM), violated an array of proper procedures and standards. The next year, the USDA brought suit against GGM as a direct result of our actions. GGM consented to an order finding that it “committed willful, flagrant and repeated violations” of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign Director is Amanda Hitt