● With 30 people dead and about 3,000 ill, the German food safety incident is a major event. Beyond those directly affected in morgues and hospitals, there has been severe economic harm absorbed by Europe’s fresh produce industry. While still not fully understood, it appears the cause of the incident was bean sprouts. Unfortunately, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers all were previously tagged with being possible culprits. Their sales cratered.
Some subjects that people in the food-safety universe are now mulling over: effective and quick systems to trace fresh food; the ever-changing nature of deadly human pathogens; public announcements by governmental health authorities (do they scare more than they calm in the absence of facts?); crisis management by trade associations; proper compensation mechanisms for growers and others who suffer undeserved economic loss; basic research needs; the role of existing private food-safety schemes, how organic production plays into the question; etc., etc.
At the end of June, the Center for Produce Safety’s 2nd Annual Produce Research Symposium will be held in Florida. I will be attending a meeting of the CPS’ advisory board on June 27 and the research symposium the next day. You can be certain the events in Germany will be on our all minds.
● As a break from food safety, I recommend a book to read for those interested in the politics of the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s a recent biography by James Grant entitled Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed. “Czar” Reed, a witty and generally wise man, led a life that a host of current political figures might want to emulate.