One Alumni Place Interview with Deborah Blum

February 10, 2020

Last month, the Wisconsin Alumni Association posted an interview with our 2019-2020 Go Big Read author, Deborah Blum which was conducted by WAA Chief Alumni Officer Sarah Schutt for One on One at One Alumni Place.

When asked how The Poison Squad has been received, Blum told Shutt that it has been the best received book that she’s done, even garnering positive responses from government officials. Blum accredits the fact that she’s had so little push-back from the book due to having a historian look through her manuscript before she sent it along to her publishers. The book and Blum’s research has been so well received that she’s even been giving talks to agriculture and food safety officials.

Schutt then went on to ask how Blum had felt when she first had found out that her book had been chosen as the 2019-2020 Go Big Read book, to which Blum discussed what an honor it was for her because not only is the Go Big Read Programs the “best common read program in the country,” but Blum continues on the say that some of the best books she’s read have also been chosen to be the Go Big Read book in previous years.

Blum also utilized this interview as a way to bring attention to and call people’s attention to the state of our federal food regulations. Blum states that “we are in a time of aggressive roll backs” when it comes to food safety standards and protocols. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906, which was passed with Dr. Wiley’s Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and was a result of the disturbing accounts of what Upton Sinclair wrote about of the Chicago meat-packing plants in The Jungle, made it so meat processing plants had to have a government inspector present in order to uphold a certain standard of product. In this interview, Blum points out that now, over a hundred years since the Meat Inspection Act was passed, roll backs are happening, currently allowing pork processing plants to hire their own inspectors rather than having government inspectors. Other meat industries are expecting those roll backs to soon be applied to them as well. With already numerous rollbacks on water, air, and wildlife regulations, American consumers are now more at risk for food related illnesses; Blum mentions a recent romaine lettuce recall was a direct result of these regulation rollbacks as the recall was due to fecal matter in the water as the result of a rollback on sanitation levels of water for irrigation.

Blum’s parting words of advice were for consumers to be conscious label readers because there are still plenty of low-grade harmful chemicals in our food today that can add up to a harmful level quickly if we are not conscious of what is in our food.

To watch the full interview, check out the Wisconsin Alumni Association website.


Olivia Poches

Go Big Read Office, Student Assistant