[FOUNTAIN]Punched in the gut

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[FOUNTAIN]Punched in the gut

After American author Upton Sinclair investigated a stockyard in Chicago, he published “The Jungle.” The 1906 novel exposed the harsh conditions of the migrant workers in the meatpacking industry. Through his book, Mr. Sinclair had hoped to criticize capitalism and seek a socialist alternative.
However, the public paid more attention to the food products processed by the migrant workers than the severe working conditions they had to endure.
Because the novel vividly depicted the lack of hygiene in meat processing, the consumption of meat and processed meat plunged. Mr. Sinclair felt bitter about the response and said, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit their stomachs.”
The incident that hit the stomachs of the Americans brought revolutionary changes to the American society.
On June 30, 1906,Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the government became actively involved in food hygiene. The laws created the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. government agency in charge of approving, testing and regulating food and drugs. A series of consumer movements was also organized.
The health awareness ignited by “The Jungle” happened 100 years ago, but recently British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver hit the stomachs of the Brits hard. Famous for his television shows, Mr. Oliver has been leading a campaign to improve school meals by using better ingredients, healthier menus and recipes. He experimented with replacing junk food with healthier options. He presented a variety of healthier choices made right at his kitchen with fresh ingredients. However, the students did not welcome the changes. They missed the taste of junk food, and the school was concerned of the increasing cost. Kitchen staffs complained about their added responsibilities. Some students boycotted the lunch as a group.
When the frustrated Mr. Oliver appeared on television, the long-faced chef hit the stomachs of the British viewers.
The public supported Mr. Oliver’s cause to save the students from their addiction to junk food, and the education ministry decided to unfold a program to enhance the quality of school meals.
While Britain was seeking to make school meals healthier, Korea is still entangled with the hygiene problem, to which the United States had come up with a solution 100 years ago. It is just pathetic that such a shameful incident happened in Korea, which is so passionate about education.


by Chae In-taek

The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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