Recycling politically convenient foodborne illness myths

There are some recurring myths in the public discussion of foodborne illness and the reasons 76 million Americans barf every year from the food and water they consume, and the New York Times is recycling them all.

Author Eric Schlosser (“Unsafe at Any Meal,” New York Times, Op-Ed, July 25) overstates the protective role of government while casting aspersions against what he calls industrial agricultural and unchecked corporate power. His rant on the Colbert Report last year was legendary.

Henry Miller who used to do biotechnology work at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration writes in the Times this morning, “The vast majority of food poisoning is caused by individuals’ mishandling of food; common lapses include the mishandling or undercooking of poultry and the inadequate refrigeration of food. More expansive, expensive, onerous regulation is not the answer; better education of consumers is.”

Our review of the data found a complete mish-mash about where “the vast majority of food poisoning illness is caused” and that no conclusions could be drawn. Produce, pot pies, pet food and pizzas don’t have much to do with consumers. And how would this better education be conducted?

If someone wrote in and said Americans have the safest food supply in the world, all the big three mythologies would be represented.

Food safety is not simple and the public discussion – which affects individual behaviors from farm-to-fork – is a mess.