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May 29, 2009

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why we should spend over half a trillion dollars a year defending ourselves against human invaders while leaving ourselves open to bacteria that are every bit as lethal is a mystery that passeth all understanding.

Do we have to explain this again? War, unlike hygiene, is a force that gives us meaning. (And I believe it's peace that passeth understanding....)

"After all, food-borne illness kills about 2,000 more people every year than died on 9/11; why we should spend over half a trillion dollars a year defending ourselves against human invaders while leaving ourselves open to bacteria that are every bit as lethal is a mystery that passeth all understanding."

Not at all. It's because nobody has figured out how to use F-22's against bacteria. And we don't have national holidays commemorating bacteriologists. And there's no fun in torturing bacteria. Lots of good reasons.

This is not a novel line of thought on my part. The following is from page 565 of the 1985 paperback edition of The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes:

VIRCHOW, Rudolph (1821-1902) German pathologist and poliitician. A reformer in politics, he was the outspoken opponent of Otto von Bismark. He played a large part in modernizing Berlin, and as director of Berlin's Pathological Institute led or inspired much original research.

1. Bismark, enraged at Virchow's constant criticisms, had his seconds call upon the scientist to challenge him to a duel. "As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons," said Virchow, "and I choose these." He held aloft two large and apparently identical sausages. "One of these," he went on, "is infected with deadly germs; the other is perfectly sound. Let His Excellency decide which one he wishes to eat, and I will eat the other." Almost immediately the message came back that the chancellor had decided to laugh off the duel.

--TP

It's espescially ironic in view of the "Don't buy pharmaceuticals in Canada. Al Qaeda might have poisoned them and the Canucks can't be trusted to sufficiently inspect their products" fear campaign a few years ago.

好秘书 我爱皮肤 中国公文网fds

I honestly don't recall that campaign, must not have been very big. Did you read about it at the Onion?

I agree, although I hope that there is some exception for regulation of small farms who distribute at farmers' markets and directly to customers. It's difficult and expensive for truly small farms which produce on a small scale to abide by regulations meant for large scale producers.

"I honestly don't recall that [anti Canadian drugs] campaign"

It wasn't very large as campaigns go, but I do recall it, mostly in print. It may have been relatively larger in border states, like my Ohio, and in old folks' media, which I am (sigh) reading more of these days.

"It's nice to know that we're getting back to serious food safety liberalism, which, frankly, ought to be just plain common sense, and perfectly acceptable to any conservatives who care about a strong defense."

It's a weird world where taking steps to insure that your food is wholesome is considered to be "liberal".

russell, that's because if you always eat safe food, you gotta be a wuss. Goes double for food that is good for you. A real man wouldn't let some tiny bugs bother him.

No such bill shows up when searching for it on Thomas. Do you have a number for it?

https://thomas.loc.gov/

@Tanguerena: HR 875

"A real man wouldn't let some tiny bugs bother him."

Snails are crunchy, if anyone's curious.

That's if you eat one accidentally. Hey, it was a small one, and it got lodged in a clump of turnip greens. At least it got cooked, first.

Ah, Slarti has been unmasked as a crypto-Frenchbeing!

No, Hartmut. I did not use garlic, or butter.

How come the number of deaths due to food born disease is important but the increase in automobile accident deaths due to CAFE standards imposed by government is glossed over?

How come the number of deaths due to food born disease is important but the increase in automobile accident deaths due to CAFE standards imposed by government is glossed over?

Well, because nobody's life depends on the continued presence of e. coli in our food, while the additional deaths casued by collisions involving lighter weight cars are the price we pay for not all being under water in a few years.

But SUVs would make it easier to drive away from the coast to higher ground, so that explaination just doesn't work.

I think hilzoy needs to read Free to Choose, in which Milton Friedman explains that we don't need all these government rules and that the caveat emptor rule is enough to protect food consumers from all these bacteria and additives................

OK, snark off. Back to sanity.

It sounds very nice, but I share Sapient's concern as to the impact of small farms which sell directly to consumers (or which are consumed directly, for that matter). One of those dull details that can have quite an impact, not that I can opine one way or the other just yet on it.

One problem with the national food chain is that it's not complex enough.

K

"How come the number of deaths due to food born disease is important but the increase in automobile accident deaths due to CAFE standards imposed by government is glossed over?"

How come we have to pick?

I agree, although I hope that there is some exception for regulation of small farms who distribute at farmers' markets and directly to customers. It's difficult and expensive for truly small farms which produce on a small scale to abide by regulations meant for large scale producers.

More on this here.

Here's a bill that I got a frantic message about a couple of months ago, the message being from a former student whose email said "this bill will kill organic farming." MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the organization at the first link, wasn't so frantic about it, just concerned.)

But that's not the bill Waxman and Dingell introduced; that one seems to be HR">https://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1631:waxman-dingell-and-pallone-release-food-safety-enhancement-act-of-2009-draft&catid=122:media-advisories&Itemid=55">HR 759.

Thanks, JanieM.

You'd think that reporters writing an article whose entire reason for being is the introduction of a piece of legislation might expend the effort to inform readers of the bill number.

And it would be especially useful in this case, when there's a significant chance of confusion with other legislation addressing food safety about which there's been a lot of publicity and alarm.

But neither Lyndsey Layton nor the Washington Post's editors can apparently be arsed to do so, though it's highly likely that the release from Waxman's press operation specifies the bill.

Hence, the need for DFH bloggers. Hilzoy, would you consider updating the post to add the bill number (H.R. 759)? Added value, and all that.

"You'd think that reporters writing an article whose entire reason for being is the introduction of a piece of legislation might expend the effort to inform readers of the bill number."

No, you wouldn't, not if you're familiar with the newspaper industry. They like the idea that they're their readers' sole source of information on a topic, and are seriously averse to providing the readers with any way of getting to source material, and potentially arriving at a take on it that differs from the newspapers'. That would kind of defeat the point, as they see it, of being in the newspaper business: Having the opportunity to mold peoples' opinions.

The same priciple explains why online newspaper articles are almost uniformly devoid of links. And why newspapers so frequently paraphrase when they could just as easily give a direct quote.

My hunch about Waxman's press operation is correct. There's a link at his website to the bill, which in its current form is a "discussion draft based largely on H.R. 759" (introduced earlier this year).

Link [.pdf].

Fear not:

Jamie Oliver is coming to town and will put an end to the US food crisis!

To treat GoodOleBoy's questions seriously:

How come the number of deaths due to food born disease is important but the increase in automobile accident deaths due to CAFE standards imposed by government is glossed over?

Quick answer: A person has a choice in the crash worthiness of a vehicle purchased. A person does not have a choice in selecting the peanut butter without e.coli compared to the peanut butter with e.coli.

Long answer: There really is no comparison between death due to tainted food and death due to lighter vehicles. Driving anywhere, any time, in any vehicle is an exercise in risk analysis. How, when and where someone drives affects the risk of an accident. The kind of car driven affects the risk of surviving the accident. Each time someone gets into their car they are taking the risk that they may be in an accident, and that if they are in an accident they may be seriously injured or killed.

There should be no risk to eating food. If someone wants to eat uncooked meat or expired goods, then they are creating their own risk. But it is not an acceptable risk as a society to wonder if the next jar of peanut butter will kill you. Or the next salsa dip, salad, etc. These are risks that someone has no manner of controlling or avoiding. Everyone has to eat, and very few foods can be boiled before preparation.

Finally to get back to the higher CAFE standards increasing the death rate due to accidents - Yes, a heavier car does provide more protection than a lighter car with identical safety devices. But the premise is dependent on safety technology not constantly marching forward and minimizing the safety difference between a heavier vehicle compared to one that has been lightened up. If I had to be in a front-end collision at 60MPH I would MUCH rather be in a Smart car than my much heavier '65 Mustang.

This bill does nothing to address the problem of irrigating crops with treated sewage effluent. It is inconvenient to see that this can easily be the source of these outbreaks, for water has become a scarce comodity in CA. Add the fact that we are spreading sewage sludge, aka biosolids, on our agricultural land and you have another potential culprit. But that is the easiest and cheapest way to dispose of the mountain of waste that we produce. These sources are ignored totally, while they cook up all this regulatory stuff to make everything sound better. Trust me, these bills will not be the end of problems with bacterial contamination in our food supply.

How come the number of deaths due to food born disease is important but the increase in automobile accident deaths due to CAFE standards imposed by government is glossed over?

Cause my BMW is built like a tank and I'm a selfish, hypocritical limousine liberal of course!

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