What is the value of government oversight? Lots of rhetoric, little reality

Folks who produce and sell food should not make their customers barf.

And they should not require the government to babysit.

But the California cantaloupe growers have decided to follow the leafy greens types and ask the government to make sure bad producers are kept in check, because apparently they can’t do it themselves.

At the end of a meeting yesterday to figure out what to do to bolster consumer confidence in cantaloupes after 32 died from listeria last fall, the best growers could come up with is government oversight.

Scott Horsfall, President and CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement said, “When our program was formed in 2007, it was very clear to our industry that mandatory government oversight was the best way to verify compliance with food safety standards. Government inspectors are uniquely positioned to provide independent food safety audits because they are a true independent third-party audit with safeguards in place to prevent conflicts of interest.”

Got any references for that? As an outside observer, the LGMA has succeeded in toning down public discussion of lettuce outbreaks; that’s it.

Horsfall added, with the dutiful reference to food safety culture without stating what it means that, “No food safety system is perfect. … The goal is to create a culture of food safety in our operations and this is something we have succeeded in doing. It is the right thing to do.”

Got any references for that? Data? Evidence of any kind?

To build public trust and foster a food safety culture, make inspection data truly transparent, brag about accomplishments with data, not rhetoric, and market all those fabulous food safety efforts at retail using multiple media and multiple messages so consumers actually have a choice.