retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Food safety remains front and center as a consumer concern this morning, as pressure may be increasing on both business and government to deal with what is becoming an increasingly worrisome issue.

The New York Times reports this morning that in the wake of the largest-ever meat recall by Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. of 27.4 million pounds of cooked turkey and chicken products because of fears of listeria contamination, consumer and environmental groups are blaming the Bush administration

These groups charge that the Bush administration have “failed to set adequate safety standards for the meat industry,” and say that its failure to adopt food safety regulations initiated by the Clinton administration contributed to the current problems. “The illnesses are the result of inexcusable dereliction of duty by the government agency charged with assuring meat safety,” Carol Tucker Foreman, of the Consumer Federation of America, told the NYT.

US Department of Agriculture officials deny the charge, saying that it is government testing that led to the current recall as well as the ConAgra recall of 19 million pounds of beef earlier this year.

The NYT reports that both the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, and The National Academy of Sciences have said that there could be better oversight and enforcement of food safety rules.
KC's View:
We tend to think that the political science tends to get more intrusive than actual science in these cases, because the finger pointing and denials tend to become more hysterical and gain greater visibility in the media.

The fact is that even if it can be argued that the current system is responsible for the two major recalls that have taken place this year, there will be a perception that something is wrong with a system in which such massive recalls have to take place. This will lead to consumer fears, which will only be amplified because of concerns about food security and bioterrorism.

Both business and government have to pay attention to the political science, if only because that will require them to communicate effectively with the consumer about these issues.