Why tolerate deadly food bacteria?
By Dennis T. Avery
We're into the second wave of anguish about the 1600 people made ill by salmonella-contaminated eggs, which caused the recall of a billion fresh eggs.
"We're not in favor of government takeovers, but in the case of the egg producers who poisoned as many as 1,600 people with salmonella, we'll advocate that," said the Frederick (MD) News-Post on Oct 1st.
"No one died, but the symptoms for some continue today—diarrhea, sickness, fever, not to mention the weeks of medical care needed by some victims, and the impact on other more conscientious egg producers in terms of lost sales. . . . This is an area where more government regulation is needed, and the free market cannot be relied on to govern itself," concludes the News-Post
The food scare industry is rubbing its hands in glee. The public has been scared witless about its food safety again, the farmers are hanging their heads in shame—and the media response is to demand more expensive government regulation that won't kill the bacteria. Thus, the food scare industry can go right on flogging the food industry while people keep on getting sick.
And pretending this is all the fault of "industrial agriculture."
I've got news, folks. Salmonella bacteria are pretty much everywhere, and always have been. Salmonella sickens more than a million people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and kills about 400. The bacterium is found in ground beef, on lettuce, on spinach, even in peanut butter and unpasteurized orange juice. Salmonella can be inside the live chicken and even inside the eggs!
The even-more-dangerous E. coli: O157 is carried by cattle, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it has never tested for the bacterium in any cattle herd without finding it. Remember that awful spinach O157 outbreak a couple of years ago with three deaths? There were cattle nearby. There were wild pigs running around through both the cattle pasture and the spinach field.
It's also true that the spinach field was in transition to organic production. That means the farmer couldn't use chemical fertilizers on it. Did he use composted cow manure? Are we sure that every bit of that composted cow manure got hot enough –130 to 150 degrees for 30 days—to kill the 0157?
The University of California/Davis says they've found occasional 0157 infections in wild pigs, coyotes, mice, crows, and cowbirds. How does more government regulation keep the food safe from all this natural risk?
There is a solution, one that the newspapers and food-scare artists hate—electronic pasteurization. Hitting the fresh food with an electron beam is cheap, quick, and kills virtually all of the food-borne bacteria on your food. It even kills the bacteria that promote rotting, so your fresh produce will taste even fresher.
The FDA approved electronic pasteurization for eggs ten years ago. The treatment has also been approved for poultry, fresh produce, and hamburger. But the food stores are frightened that news of electron beams will set off consumer boycotts—fear encouraged and managed by the food scare activists.
Think about the News-Post's litany of suffering for 1,600 egg consumers—and multiply it by 875—to get the annual national illness impact of salmonella. Add 400 deaths. That doesn't even include the deaths and agony from 0157. We in the United States have the safest food system the world has ever known. Don't let food-scare pushers tell you otherwise. It would take only this already-approved step to eliminate the bacteria that causes a million of us each year to suffer the misery of what we commonly call "food poisoning." and what, occasionally, causes death.
Isn't it time for consumer organizations to support electronic pasteurization? What can you do to protect your family? Start with talking to your grocery store manager about your support for electronic pasteurization.
Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.