So much for hope: best Obama food safety group can do is ‘we have safest food in world’

The last thing people need from any agency is another list of tips to protect consumers from foodborne illness.

Salmonella in jalapeno’s, E. coli in leafy greens and strawberries, listeria in cantaloupes. These are not consumer issues. The only thing consumers can do is to avoid such products. But with no marketing of food safety at retail, shoppers really can’t choose until long after defective foodstuffs are publicized and recalled.

Faith-based food safety.

So when U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is reduced to reciting meaningless clichés to describe food safety achievements in the Obama administration — “We have the safest food supply in the world, but we can always do more to protect consumer” — they’ve thrown in the towel.

The feds are also going to refocus on consumer education, whatever that means.

As some smart policy wonk (not an oxymoron, in this specific case) told me 25 years ago, when politicians talk about educating people, things have really gone off the rails.

As part of clear consumer education and communication, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today issued a progress report highlighting the accomplishments and strategies of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) combined with useful information for consumers on safe food handling.

Who said the information was useful? Was the information evaluated? Were consumers asked if they thought the information was useful? Did anyone test to see if this useful information translated into food safety behavioral change? Or is useful just some characterization thrown in by a PR flunky.

“As families across the country share in this holiday season, it is important to reiterate our commitment to protecting the food supply and our desire to remain vigilant to protect the American people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We have taken a number of steps to improve the safety of America’s meat and poultry supply in recent years and the President’s Food Safety Working Group has proven to be a vital component to our work.”

Yes, the full report highlights a number of accomplishments. Most of these are good. But when the “FSWG also plans to continue its efforts to improve food safety by collaborating more with state and local health and agriculture agencies, and food producers, as well as providing education to consumers” in the absence of any science or data to support such information provision, they’ve thrown in the towel.