Table of Contents:
- Consumers Hear Only Half The Story On Food-Borne Illness
- Back-of-the-napkin approach
When activist groups and media sensationalize food-bone illness outbreaks without providing the context of the overwhelming safety of the U.S. food supply, they do a disservice to consumers, government and industry.
This is a back-of-the-napkin approach to calculations, and everyone reading this can substitute their own estimates. It’s interesting to note that 51% of the CDC-estimated outbreaks are related to plant commodities (4,924,877/year); in contrast, the beef-related cases were 6.6%.
Let me be clear: our goal is zero foodborne illness. My intent isn’t to trivialize human disease; I fully recognize the gravity of the hospitalizations and death resulting from foodborne illnesses. However, to discuss such cases without reference to consumption is irresponsible.
Of course, any effort by interests to drum up funding support is more effective if they cite 639,640 cases (the numerator) of foodborne illness, without considering the denominator and referencing that only 0.0006% of beef meals resulted in a foodborne disease. It’s also important to note that not all these cases are due to pathogens that came into the final food product source on the meat.
To read more health posts by Mike Apley, DVM, click here
Driving as much news exposure as possible on a single outbreak is the same strategy as publicizing lottery winners to give the impression that winning is common. In both cases, the goal is to give the impression that the event is quite common, when in fact it is not.
That’s why groups with goals of damaging animal agriculture only use the top half of a fraction or focus so much on single outbreaks. We must help our consumers see the whole picture.
Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, is a professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University in Manhattan.
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