Holy Hamburger!

Inside Dakota Ag

Consumers might really be scared of their food if they read the thriller “Hotwire.”

Published on: January 30, 2012

Some consumers are already scared of their food. Despite a lack of evidence, they fear that the raw material isn’t safe because it has been genetically modified, that giant meat packers will cut any corner to make a profit and that USDA inspectors are looking the other way all the time.

New York Times best-selling author Alex Kava taps into all three fears in her new book, Hotwire. In her ripped-from-the-headlines style, Kava spins a tale where hamburger in school lunches is contaminated with a deadly, genetically modified salmonella. The surprise twist is that USDA and the Department of Defense worked together to create the organism to use as a biological weapon.

 “Hotwire” is set in western Nebraska (Kava is from Nebraska). A couple teenagers in the Sandhills get killed by criminals who are trying to keep their lab where they are genetically modifying plants hidden.

The genetically modified salmonella gets mixed in hamburger and shipped off to a foreign country to be tested. But, by mistake, some of it ends up in the National School Lunch program.

Kava, who spends some of the year in Omaha, Neb., goes to some length not to blame farmers for unsafe food.

In the epilogue, she writes, “Thank you to the ranchers, farmers and food producers of this nation, who not only do an amazing job of feeding us, but of making sure our food is safe. After the spinach recall in 2006, growers and producers got together and developed a safer, more efficient and effective system to curtail future contaminants. They did this on their own and long before the federal government had finished its official investigation.”

But then she adds: “As I finished the edits to this novel in December 2010, Congress was passing a new food safety bill in response to the egg recall of August/September. Ironically, this massive overhaul of FDA regulations does not extend to the USDA, which oversees beef, poultry, and, yes, eggs.”

Sounds like another book is in the works.