Food safety

Is Foodborne Illness on the Rise?

What is the role of government in making our food safer?

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Alexander the Great
Public Domain

The past few weeks have seen what may be an unprecedented number of headlines around the world pertaining to foodborne illness. A number of these illnesses have proven fatal.

In Mozambique, beer allegedly tainted with crocodile bile killed dozens at a wedding. It's unclear at this point how the bile did—or even could—make its way into the beer. (It's also not clear that crocodile bile is poisonous.)

In India, more than two-dozen people are dead and at least 100 people are ill, some severely, after consuming homemade liquor containing deadly methyl alcohol during a cricket match. Elsewhere in India, four members of a family died after dining at a restaurant to celebrate a holiday.

In California, a batch of drug-laced sweet bread from a Santa Ana bakery has sickened more than 40 people. And listeria-tainted apples, which authorities say are linked to a California producer, have killed three.

Despite this news and the prevalence of Buzzfeed-worthy foodborne illness headlines, the domestic food supply is still remarkably safe—and among the safest in the world. CDC data indicate that foodborne illness is not on the rise in the United States. Agency data from 2013 show only one statistically significant increase in illnesses caused by various pathogens (vibrio), while showing statistically significant decreases in illnesses caused by two key pathogens—listeria and salmonella.

But is the overall safety of our food supply enough to warn off regulations? What, if anything, is the government's proper role in preventing foodborne illness and punishing food adulteration?

I think the federal government should have the authority to order adulterated products off the market and to punish (with fines, arrest, or both) those who sell food that sickens others.

While I'm often a critic of FDA regulations—particularly those pertaining to food safety—it turns out that my own beliefs here mirror FDA rules currently in place.

It may surprise you to learn that the FDA only recently was given the power to order food recalls.

Scholars and advocates pushed for years for Congress to grant the FDA the power to order recalls of food that is adulterated and harmful—something that finally came to fruition in the otherwise awful Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Again, I'm a big supporter of the FDA having such power.

"Giving the FDA mandatory recall authority, as the [FSMA] did, is an important tool for forcing foods that have been found to be a definitive hazard off the market," I wrote last year.

The FDA's power to punish those who adulterate food and cause harm has been in place far longer. That's a good thing—particularly if the culprit does so intentionally.

The FDA clearly deserves some of the credit for the safety of our food supply.

But, as I noted in recent FSMA comments I submitted to the FDA on behalf of Keep Food Legal Foundation, the nonprofit I lead, that's but a small piece of the puzzle.

"The FDA can't wash the hands of every eater and cook in the country," I wrote. And it can't prevent bad actors from intentionally poisoning food—as may have happened in India, Mozambique, and California recently.

That's why the private sector's role is so important.

The safety of our food supply is a testament to the men and women who make our food-and to the companies that employ them. It's also thanks to the lawyers who sue those people and companies when they do harm.

Thanks to splashy headlines and a handful of truly appalling recent cases, foodborne illness may appear to be on the rise. Thankfully, that's not the case. What's more, data and the combined efforts of the public and private sectors make it clear that the tools are in place to push back against foodborne illness.

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88 responses to “Is Foodborne Illness on the Rise?

  1. This is why I only eat food that I kill, grow or order for myself.

    1. I have my orphans drive game ,plant and harvest for me.

      1. Sounds like the equivalent of ethanol. Why not just eat the orphans?

        1. Their skinny,not much meat,I do salt food with their tears though.

        2. and who would clean monocles and top hat?

    2. “or order for myself.”

      So, IOW, you’re not in prison…….

  2. I was arguing once with a guy who was trying to describe to me how terrible McDonald’s was. All those cattle slaughtered and processed under disgusting, unsanitary conditions. I asked him if he could remember, after “billions” of burgers being sold, a single instance of anyone getting sick at a McDonald’s. He was speechless.

    1. If anything, its the final step (the people working at the restaurant) that may get you.

    2. Well, it’s not fair to ask for things like “facts” or “evidence.”

    3. Yeah bring back the days of salt meat and fish and no fresh veggies in the winter.People dying from home canning was a big thing too.

      1. Sweet, sweet botulism.

        1. and turnips in the bin

          1. Now I have “Whiskey in The Jar” stuck in my head.

            1. Got to look for the bead,or so I’ve been told.I’ll stick with stout and porter.

      2. “Delicious” surstromming. The can is supposed to be puffed up.

  3. What, if anything, is the government’s proper role in preventing foodborne illness and punishing food adulteration?

    Three words: Somalian deep-dish.

    1. Deep dish,what?

      1. Speaking of Somalian deep-dish, I was at the market in Berbera, Somalia and I saw this guy selling something that looked like black sesame covered bread or pastry (from a distance) that was about as thick as deep-dish pizza. I walked up to his table, he waved his hand, and all the “sesame” flew away.

      2. He told you, deep dish Somalian.

  4. “The FDA can’t wash the hands of every eater and cook in the country,” I wrote. And it can’t prevent bad actors from intentionally poisoning food?as may have happened in India, Mozambique, and California recently.

    That’s why the private sector’s role is so important.

    The safety of our food supply is a testament to the men and women who make our food-and to the companies that employ them. It’s also thanks to the lawyers who sue those people and companies when they do harm.

    Considering your argument, Baylen, I’m surprised you didn’t cite the many instances of Chinese companies, which are either state-owned or government-crony run, adulterating food to increase profit margins (melamine in milk comes to mind) basically because it’s nigh impossible to sue in China. Especially if you’re just a common citizen whose infant died from drinking plastic-infused milk powder and the culprit is a modern-day sh? d?f?.

    1. So how many U.S babies have died from this milk?Any? The food supply here is VERY safe.Safest in all history.You like to stir the pot with B.S.

      1. You seem to have misunderstood his point.

        1. No I did not,I don’t live in China and HM likes bring up things not in any way related to a article.

          1. Seriously, what the fuck are you on about?

          2. So you commute between India and Mozambique, then?

  5. my roomate’s aunt makes $83 an hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 7 months but last month her check was $20229 just working on the computer for a few hours. read more……….
    ????? http://www.netpay20.com

  6. We don’t need the FDA. The FDA has been responsible for the early death of many more people than it has ever ‘saved’. We already have a system to curb food poisoning in the US, and that is the courts. As the author claims, it is impossible to police all food processing/handling everywhere. The best a regulatory agency can do is jump in after they read in the news that several people have been poisoned, and fine the company responsible. The threat of legitimate lawsuit does the same, but without a bloated, useless government agency. We don’t need the FDA to jump in front of the parade when someone else discovers food poisoning.

    1. Have you ever sued anyone, or been sued?

      I’d absolutely love it if what you propose was actually possible within our system. It’s not. An individual cannot sue a large corporation (or the government) and obtain restitution without a prolonged, expensive battle. They will simply tie you up in court until you can’t afford it anymore and you go away.

      Not a food issue, but a close friend recently had a contract with the government. The government outright defaulted on their contract and said, FYTW, go ahead and sue us. My friend’s lawyer ($500/hr) said, yep, you’ll win this case hands down…in 5-7 years. My buddy needs to make payroll THIS MONTH or he’s out of business and will lose several hundred thousand dollars of his own money.

      I, personally, had over $30K stolen by a contractor/con-man who ran a front-company and didn’t have a dollar to his name. My lawyer said, yep, you’ll win hands down. It will cost you about $20K and you’ll never see a dime of the settlement, because he has nothing to take. Cops won’t touch him until AFTER the civil suit, as we had a contract.

      So, while I agree the right way for the system to work is to sue wrongdoers, it won’t work until there are some MAJOR changes to the Tort system. And even then, you can’t get blood from a stone.

      1. Yes, I agree that tort reform in needed; if I believe I was wronged, I should be able to inexpensively bring my case in front of a judge. Right now, however, the fix is in, mostly due to the powerful Trial Lawyers associations. But, in cases where someone, for example, kept a product on the market when they knew it was harmful, that would be criminal. In that case, we have to rely on AG’s to bring suit, but again, in many cases, the fix is in with them also.

      2. An individual cannot sue a large corporation (or the government) and obtain restitution without a prolonged, expensive battle.

        The vast majority of personal injury suits are on “commission”; the plaintiff is not exposed to a penny of expenses. Even if they lose.

        This changes the attorney’s calculation, and requires the attorney to evaluate the value of the case v the cost of bringing it. But that’s not a bad thing, is it?

        No more than a tiny fraction of personal injury claims ever get to trial. Most don’t even get very deep into discovery. They are settled early.

        The Trial Lawyers associations are the plaintiff’s attorneys. The idea that they are raising barriers to people bringing claims and getting paid is ludicrous. And they are among the top tier of powerful special interests in most states. They tip the scale the other way, and rather effectively.

        1. This changes the attorney’s calculation, and requires the attorney to evaluate the value of the case v the cost of bringing it. But that’s not a bad thing, is it?

          Depends. Are you the guy who was wronged, but no one will take your case because the payoff isn’t high enough? And, what normally happens is they don’t sue the responsible party (i.e. the drunk who drove), they sue the party NOT responsible but with deep pockets (the bar), driving up the cost of doing business and inhibiting growth.

          Full disclosure here RCD, what do you do for a living?

        2. You are right about the Trial Lawyers *typically* representing plaintiffs, but as one of the largest lobbying groups in this country, they have created much of the law and policy to their advantage. How about ‘Loser Pays’? Why don’t we have that? Not that we should automatically mimic other countries, but the US is one of the few first world countries that doesn’t have it, solely because of pressure by the Trial Lawyers Association. The fact that ANY interest group can game the system, for any reason, is WRONG, and goes against the ideal of a fair judiciary.

      3. Lol, what a horseshit example. He signed the contract with the government. WTF did he expect? Never agree to anything with the government. Period. Full stop.

      4. And why did you agree to a contract with a con-man? Did you not do even a modicum of research to see if the guy was legitimate? If the deal is too good to be true, it’s not. I have a Nigerian prince I want to introduce you to. Putz.

        1. And why did you agree to a contract with a con-man?

          The slut was asking for it, right Harold?

      5. Debtor’s prison FTW.

      6. I had a similar problem. General contractor on my house basically submitted a fraudulent bid. They even ended up having basic addition errors. I had a choice between giving the ultimate settlement–if any to be had per FdA’s example–to a lawyer for their fees or just walking away. Oh, and the precious government really wasn’t that interested in helping because, well, I could afford it, couldn’t I?

        Even better? In my state any contractor can put a mechanics lien on your property any time they want. You have the burden of getting it removed. Sure, you’ll win automatically once you go before a judge, but you still have the burden of doing so. Great system.

        Fuck the government and fuck lawyers.

        1. Same here. That was this guy’s schtick. He claimed we owed him money (which we did not), put a lien on the house (for WAY more than he was allowed to by law) two weeks before we needed to convert our construction loan to a mortgage. He essentially extorted a payment for services not provided. Extortion and fraud.

          1. Best part was with the arbiter. I was pointing out duplications in their records and inconsistencies, and they had close to zero supporting documentation. Arbiter’s question to me, “Well, you don’t expect them to have all their records, do you?” My response, “I do, they should, and so should you.”

            Oh, and the arbiter was an ex-judge who was very eager to get *my* payment for services rendered, but pathetically useless for getting the fucking lien waivers from said asshat contractor.

            Again, fuck lawyers.

      7. Then what’s with all these class actions I hear about leading to settlements?

  7. Re: semen in the yogurt guy. This just seems like a criminal act to me – what’s the FDA have to do with it? Are you saying if the FDA wasn’t around to protect us, he would have received no punishment??

    1. Or just Breakfast at Warty’s

    2. the FDA is not a judicial agency. If only we had things called courts and people called lawyers who could take up cases of people acting badly.

      1. If only we had things called courts and people called lawyers who could take up cases of people acting badly.

        Yes, I agree, but see my post above. As the system is set up, the only people winning settlements are the lawyers. The average person can’t afford to sue, especially if you are sueing someone with nearly unlimited resources. Need to fix the tort system first.

      2. FDA and/or its parent PHS, and/or its parent HHS, does have article 1 tribunals.

  8. Geniuses

    Here’s a better way to think about it. The low inflation isn’t a bad thing, exactly, but it’s a sign that the Federal Reserve has an opportunity ? one it’s not necessarily taking advantage of ? low interest rates.

    The Fed has pegged short-term interest rates at a near-zero level for years, now. That’s great news if you’re looking to take out a mortgage or if you’re a company looking for a loan to expand operations. It’s also great news if you’re an entrepreneur looking for venture-capital backing, because the very low returns on safe assets are pushing investors to look for bolder ideas to back.

    If we misprice risk, people will bet on anything. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. They are just shifting and leveraging the risk.

      Right now, what should be the safest portfolio – bonds – is actually extremely risky, because when rates go up, and they will, those portfolios are going to be damaged.

      And damaged badly. The average one year treasury rate from 1962 through 2008 was @6.12%. Its currently .12%. A reversion to the mean would inflict epic damage on bond portfolios.

      And the federal budget.

      1. …”And the federal budget.”

        You’ll forgive me if I think this may have something to do with the reason the rate is ass badly distorted as it is.

        1. And the weighted average interest on US debt is ~1.5% lower today than it was in 2008/9 which is where a significant amount of Barry’s deficit ‘reduction’ that the buttplug likes to suck on comes from. Since the debt is the size of the economy, that’s 1.5% of GDP right there.

          The fed is subsidizing government spending by stealing from the private sector. Surprise!

  9. just before I looked at the draft four $9879 , I didn’t believe that…my… father in law had been truly erning money part time from there computar. . there dads buddy has done this for only 21 months and just repaid the dept on their apartment and bourt a great Land Rover Range Rover .
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  10. Genius, pt II

    So let’s learn from the Swiss. They’ve been careful; they’ve maintained sound money for generations. And now they’re paying the price.

    Not sure if serious.

    1. They’re paying the price for three years of unsound monetary policy, trying to peg the CHF to the EUR and engaging in qualitative easing and buying jonk to do so.

      They unpegged the CHF precisely to minimize the damage.

  11. my buddy’s half-sister makes $66 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for five months but last month her payment was $19090 just working on the computer for a few hours. browse around this site……….
    ????? http://www.cashbuzz80.com

  12. “What’s more, data and the combined efforts of the public and private sectors make it clear that the tools are in place to push back against foodborne illness.”

    Rules, regulations, and data – are great I guess, unless you are taking a cruise. Are there any maritime laws pertaining to foodborne illnesses? Just wondering who has jurisdiction.

    Anyhoot, for an industry that sustains human lifeform, I do not understand why there hasn’t been more advancement in technology.
    Culpability is great only, if you are actually aware of an infraction. If we can put a swab in our mouths and detect just about everything,
    why can’t we have something equivalent test our food. I know it’s easy for me to say somebody whip-up something in their garage but it just seems it would solve many undetected problems.

    1. “why can’t we have something equivalent test our food. I know it’s easy for me to say somebody whip-up something in their garage but it just seems it would solve many undetected problems.”

      Where and when do you test?
      As mentioned above, there’s a good chance any problems were caused during distribution to the consumer; do you have the FDA in every house testing just before you eat?

      1. Shouldn’t the industry decide? We’re never going to be 100% pure (npi) on the handling and distribution side of it, but listeria and salmonella are usually on the producer side, or so I thought.

        My pet peeve is on the communication side.
        Most times I don’t even hear about something until a few weeks later. I wish grocery chains would post their recalls at their stores. Mine doesn’t.

  13. Grow your own and/or buy from producers where ypu are allowed to visit and see their operation.

    1. Works for those who live in certain areas, not those who live in cities.

      1. You can leave the city. OTOH, if you are buying “local” you could still visit the place of production say annually.

        1. Chumby|1.17.15 @ 5:50PM|#
          “You can leave the city. OTOH, if you are buying “local” you could still visit the place of production say annually.”

          I can also grow my own food if I want to be an idiot about it.
          Did you ever hear of comparative advantage?

          1. If you are looking at food as being fungible. The article is about food safety. My point is that if you have standards regarding food production, then growing your own and/or purchasing from a (local) producer that allows you to visit/audit fulfills this requirement (provided they meet said standards). If you want to acquiesce that role to USDA and FDA feel free.

  14. Grow your own and/or buy from producers where ypu are allowed to visit and see their operation.

    Fuck that “localvore” idiocy. I like coffee and bananas. Neither grow in Montana.

    1. It’s almost like the people pushing that are economic illiterates who don’t understand how comparative advantage works.

      Almost.

      1. Its almost like the people that ignore this think that a pound of lean finely textured beef that consists of parts of hundreds of CAFO cows is the same as burger from a single free range highland cow. Almost.

        I’m not trying to save $5; I’m interested in controlling the quality of the food I’m consuming and ensure it is produced in a manner I find acceptable.

    2. You would purposely buy something from far away when it is available from a local source that could be personally audited to ensure it meets your standards? Or do you only eat coffee beans and bananas?

  15. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  16. What, if anything, is the government’s proper role in preventing foodborne illness and punishing food adulteration?

    Staying the fuck out of the way of a completely freed marketplace?

    That was easy.

  17. up to I looked at the check 4 $9975 , I did not believe that my brother woz like they say trully taking home money in there spare time from their computer. . there best friend has done this less than 10 months and a short time ago paid for the depts on there home and purchased themselves a Ariel Atom . have a peek at this website………..
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  18. my neighbor’s step-aunt makes $80 an hour on the internet . She has been laid off for five months but last month her payment was $12901 just working on the internet for a few hours.
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  19. Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. I freelance over the internet and earn about 75 bucks an hour. Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a
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  20. Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. I freelance over the internet and earn about 75 bucks an hour. Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a click away.,.,.,.,
    . ?????? http://www.wiki-careers.com

  21. just before I looked at the draft four $9879 , I didn’t believe that…my… father in law had been truly erning money part time from there computar. . there dads buddy has done this for only 21 months and just repaid the dept on their apartment and bourt a great Land Rover Range Rover .
    Read More Here ~~~~~~~~ http://www.jobs700.com

  22. my roomate’s sister-in-law makes $61 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $13483 just working on the laptop for a few hours. you can check here…………
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  23. my roomate’s sister-in-law makes $61 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $13483 just working on the laptop for a few hours. you can check here…………
    ????? http://www.jobs-sites.com

  24. my roomate’s sister-in-law makes $61 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $13483 just working on the laptop for a few hours. you can check here…………
    ????? http://www.jobs-sites.com

  25. my roomate’s sister-in-law makes $61 hourly on the laptop . She has been fired for 8 months but last month her payment was $13483 just working on the laptop for a few hours. you can check here…………
    ????? http://www.jobs-sites.com

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  27. I’m getting really annoyed at the US Dept of Health and Human Services’ radio spots. Every time I turn on the radio, that spot is on.

    “Use a meat thermometer. It’s not a nice to have or an optional step..” Or something like that.

    I can only think “Fuck you, I’m not cooking my burger to leathery bullshit. How much money is spent on these spots? Why is it the government’s concern how I cook my own fucking meat?

    1. “Why is it the government’s concern how I cook my own fucking meat?”

      ‘Cause Roberts called it a “tax”.

      1. I also like how HHS demands that it’s not optional. “YOU MUST USE A THERMOMETER BECAUSE DADDY TELLS YOU TO”

  28. $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did
    ?????? http://www.paygazette.com

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  30. Six months ago I lost my job and after that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great website which literally saved me. I started working for them online and in a short time after I’ve started averaging 15k a month… The best thing was that cause I am not that computer savvy all I needed was some basic typing skills and internet access to start… This is where to start???.
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