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Winner, Winner, Salmonella Dinner

October 16, 2013

Even if I still ate meat, I don’t think I’d be eager to eat chicken (in fact, Jonathan Safran Foer’s description in Eating Animals of the “fecal bath” used in chicken processing is what got me (and my daughter) to stop eating meat). From Mark Bittman:

In recent weeks, salmonella on chicken has officially sickened more than 300 people (the Centers for Disease Control says there are 25 illnesses for every one reported, so maybe 7,500) and hospitalized more than 40 percent of them, in part because antibiotics aren’t working. Industry’s reaction has been predictably disappointing: the chicken from the processors in question — Foster Farms — is still being shipped into the market. Regulators’ responses have been limited: the same chicken in question is still being sold.

Until the Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) of the Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) can get its act together and start assuring us that chicken is safe, I’d be wary.

This is not a shutdown issue, but a “We care more about industry than we do about consumers” issue. Think that’s an exaggeration? Read this mission statement: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.” What part of “safe” am I misreading?

Though the problem described is a classic problem of regulatory capture. Of course that applies to the entire meat industry (as well as many other industries).

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