Loco ‘local’ food law and Lewis and Clark
By Jeff Havens
Editor’s note: The Lewis and Clark Expedition, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, mapped and explored the Louisiana Purchase and areas West from 1804 to 1806, including the area from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.
They were on the edge of starvation in the Bitterroot Mountains during mid-September 1805.
The 34 members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were so hungry they started eating their own horses. They also supplement the meat with canned “portable soup” on Sept. 14, 15, 16, 18, and 19 in that difficult year.
When Capt. Meriwether Lewis paid for canned soup in Philadelphia in May 1803, he could have never imagined his emergency food had a fair chance of killing all members of the expedition. This fact was largely dependent on whether the soup was boiled before consumption. To add to this difficulty, the emergency food was contained in lead canisters in which no oxygen could flow into the food.
This ignorance is comprehensible by today’s standards because science has yet to understand both germ theory and the negative health consequences of ingesting leads. In addition, scientists and food processors have no understanding of the deadliest known food poison: botulinum toxin.
Reasonable persons believe we have advanced well beyond early 19th-century ignorance, and in many ways, we have progressed. However, in some ways we are regressing, much to the detriment of public health.
Botulinum is a potent neurotoxin toxin. It is created under low-acid, low-oxygen environments, and cannot be detected by