In my world, perception is reality. So while various experts being quoted in this story about the mysterious pistachio case tell me food safety is getting better in America– that the problem is we’re just more aware of these things than we used to be — I still don’t have the confidence in our food that I used to have. How about you?
On the one hand, the report from writer Carrie Peyton of The Sacramento Beeincludes a chart showing that 15.18 people out of every 100,000 in America are annually infected by salmonella and she quotes James Gorny, executive director of UC Davis’ Postharvest Technology Center, who says:
“The reality is, the potential for getting food-borne illness is fairly low in this country,” he said. “There’s just a broader awareness” of recalls, Gorny said, plus better techniques to detect contamination and find links between what might have once been seen as unrelated illnesses.
To her credit, however, the reporter includes this rendition of the recent past:
The recall comes amid another for spices distributed by a Bay Area plant, and in the wake of recalls in the past two years for salmonella or E. coli contamination in peanut butter, tomatoes, peppers, spinach and other products.
Still, even if you think the risk of getting sick is small and declining, you should scan the story to learn why the probability of it taking weeks and weeks to find and resolve the source of a problem is way higher than it ought to be in the United States. Here’s just one factoid according to Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety:
“What the FDA did for 30 years was trust the producers that they would do the right thing – but never verify that… They set up a system that the average FDA regulated facility could expect to see an inspector once every four to five years.”
One last point if I may? If I’m one of the 15 out of 100,000 getting sick on this stuff — or my kid is one of the 15 — I don’t care what the statistics are. In that instance, the problem is 1000% bigger than it should be.