It’s no secret that Americans are “dissatisfied with food regulatory standards” in the U.S. In response to plunging numbers, Obama decided to create a “food safety working group” to solve the growing problem. However, simply pumping more money into regulatory agencies will not alleviate the contamination problem completely.
Obama’s food safety group was kind enough to produce a document expressing their “key findings.” In this document the group calls for a “flexible” approach to food safety and then quickly recommends setting more “rigorous standards for food safety,” which quickly clouds their underlying premise of how to handle the situation. We cannot simultaneously increase regulations AND be more flexible… so which is it?
The group’s first tangible recommendation was to decrease the amount of “Salmonella found in eggs.” While this is a legitimate problem (Salmonella is the most common bacterial cause of illness), eggs contaminated with Salmonella account for a “mere thirty deaths per year.” According to the CDC, 1,809 deaths per year occur due to food-borne transmission. Of these deaths, around 560 are attributable to Salmonella. Just a mere 5% of deaths attributed to Salmonella are due to eggs.
So how exactly does this make for a valid starting point for a billion-dollar project?
Instead of picking a fight with chicken farmers, the group should begin addressing systematic changes within food distribution centers. Examine the crux of the problem, which has been evident in several recent contaminations – corporate culture. Money and tightened regulations will not solve this growing problem, at least not any time soon. Whether Obama would like to admit it or not, regulation was not the cause of Westland Hallmark’s beef recall: misinformed workers were just following a company’s learned routine. Before we make sweeping billion-dollar food safety reforms, let’s make sure we take the time to fully comprehend the problem at hand.