Essay: Food Safety

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[. . .] The ammonia process is generally simple and effective, which is why cases like Smith's are rare, but there is always the possibility of a problem with the ammonia wash rendering the system ineffective -- when the system only has one meaningful safeguard and that fails, this puts the risk on the consumer.

For me, I think it is unacceptable to put this risk on adults, let alone children. While I think most Americans would accept some streamlining of production processes, regulators allow incredible lengths at this point that simply do not provide adequate safety. Some changes should be made to the system to improve its effectiveness.

The biggest change that I would make it to focus on bringing production back to the United States -- it is one thing to import beef from Uruguay, but another altogether to have it ground down there and then sent up, having been outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Strict rules should be applied with all imported foodstuffs. Another change that I would consider making is to use real meat in burgers. One of the reasons I uncovered in my research for the use of ammonia was that many burgers are made from fatty trimmings -- basically stuff scraped off the slaughterhouse floor. Restaurants that grind real meat, fresh, do not have tainted burgers. The FDA does have the power to ban either ammonia or the use of trimmings, though it is unlikely to do the latter as it would take millions of pounds of meat out of the food system. But finding alternatives to this process, and the ammonia wash, holds promise to me.

The key for the FDA and USDA here is that they need to remember why they exist -- to protect the consumer. Business always works to the extent of the law, and the meatpacking business does not differ in this respect. Indeed, it hasn't changed since the days of The Jungle -- whatever it can get away with to maximize profit, it will pursue that. The FDA was brought into existence to curtail the worst of industry excesses. Over time, the FDA has come to work more closely with the industry than with the American people, who are a critical stakeholder. So at some level, my distrust of the system is not about ammonia or Stephanie Smith, it is about the organizational culture at the FDA that emphasizes the needs of business over the needs of other stakeholders. These needs to be more attention paid, right from the top of the organization, to what Americans need from the agency. Yes, Americans want cheap hamburgers, but at the end of the day they do not need cheap hamburgers. They need healthy food, they need to eat things that are made out of food, and they need to know that they have a food safety system that puts their interests first.

Government intervention is certainly not wrong in our society. A perfectly free market system is designed to maximize economic efficiency. A noble goal, maybe, but this is not the objective of government. First, economic efficiency will never occur when consumers do not have perfect information -- business will exploit information asymmetry to earn profit. Government can acquire information on aggregate for all people in a much more efficient way. Government therefore is better suited to regulatory oversight than are individual Americans. Moreover government should play this role -- business certainly will not provide its own oversight. If there is anything people do want government to get involved in, it is the provision of a safe food supply. A safe food supply is the social outcome government seeks in intervening in this market using its bargaining power to lower the cost of acquiring the information needed to ensure that the markets are as free as possible, for they cannot be free if the company have all of the information and are price-setters -- these things run against the definition of a perfectly competitive market. Therefore, I feel more strict intervention is both just and warranted, to reset the system back in line with the interests of consumers.

References

Karnowski, S. (2010). Stephanie Smith, Cargill settle on E. Coli case after NYT story about tainted meat. Huffington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/12/stephanie-smith-cargill-s_n_574290.html

Sinclair, U. (1906). The Jungle [END OF PREVIEW]

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Food Safety.  (2014, April 28).  Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/food-safety/9560649

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/food-safety/9560649.