A Mom's "Invitation" Helps Explain Why Our Food Safety Approach Is So Misguided
Much of the discussion here in recent weeks, whether about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) or competitive exclusion, is really about food safety. Many of the comments on those topics are penetrating and insightful.
But while food safety is a hot political issue right now, the comments posted on this blog aren’t what the politicians are hearing.
They’re hearing from highly emotional consumers instead. A good example is embodied in an article I did for BusinessWeek.com a couple weeks ago, suggesting that HR 2749, the main federal food safety legislation making its way through Congress, will unfairly penalize small producers, and give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration too much power.
You’ll see that following the article are extensive comments from Donna Rosenbaum, the head of Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP). She says the article “is misleading, short-sighted and self-serving.” After questioning not only my logic, but my motives, she concludes, “I would like to invite Mr. Gumpert to spend one day at the bedside of a child on life support battling a foodborne disease. I believe that just might change his mind.”
We’ve had that discussion at length on this blog based on the illness of Chris Martin (attributed to contaminated raw milk), and the discussion involving his mom, Mary McGonigle-Martin (look up her name in the search function, and you’ll find much material). But basically, it illustrates the difficulty of separating out highly charged and tragic individual cases from rational public health policy decisions. More significant, it illustrates the challenges associated with trying to get at the real causes of food-borne illness—and relying instead on heavy-handed methods that may make a few victims feel good, at the expense of entire segments of producers who embody a way of life being gradually wiped away in this country.
Unfortunately, the politicians mainly hear from the Donna Rosenbaums of the world (along with Big Ag lobbyists), and those highly articulate enotional-laden individuals are very difficult to ignore if you have hopes of seeking re-election.