The outrage of ‘Food, Inc.’

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Here’s how it works in America. Messages such as the one behind the new documentary “Food, Inc.” — that the way we produce food in this country is killing us, the environment and the world economy — will be received with much grim praise from people who don’t need to hear it in the first place, and blithely ignored by the masses who do.

The downtown farmer’s market in Santa Cruz is within a block of where ‘Food, Inc.’ is currently playing and you have to expect that there will be significant crossover audience between those two entities. Conservatives will sniff that granola crunchers go to such movies just to make themselves feel superior. But that doesn’t change the facts that the film exposes. Hidden by the illusion of consumer choice is a monolithic food industry that plays by its own profit-at-any-cost rules and the result is widespread heart disease, environmental catastrophe, the destruction of entrepreneurial capitalism and the rising specter of the possibility of food-borne illness.

In the end, ‘Food, Inc.’ — now playing at the Nickelodeon — points a big fat finger at the fast-food industry, and it’s convincing enough to make you nauseous at the mention of a Happy Meal. Naysayers are likely to bray about “personal responsibility,” that consumers should be responsible for what they eat and the government has no right to be someone’s nanny. They’re right, of course, but it’s funny how that responsibility street runs only one way. Why doesn’t the seller share in the responsibility of what they’re selling?

There’s one scene in “Food, Inc.” that’s so utterly flabbergasting, it borders on a parody. A woman whose husband has diabetes and heart disease justifies buying fast food for him on the grounds that after buying all the medications he needs to manage his diseases, fast food is all she can afford. How’s that for “Through the Looking Glass” thinking?

The scary thing is that, thanks to the recession, more people are turning to fast food to save a buck or two. “Food Inc.,” playing in lefty college towns for organic-buying audiences, isn’t going to change that. Maybe it’s time for fast food to follow the tobacco industry, and warning labels to be slapped on every burger wrapper in America.

Yeah, I know. That’ll happen the day pigs learn to fly. Cows and chickens too.

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