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The Baltimore Sun reports that on the downside of year-round produce and plentiful meat supplies - more deadly infections that are killing people.

"Green onions from Mexico killed three patrons of a Pennsylvania restaurant and sickened more than 600 in the fall," the paper reports. "Mad cow test standards were tightened last week, months after a Washington state Holstein was infected with the disease, traced to a Canadian herd." And, "a strain of avian flu discovered this month in Maryland - while no threat to humans - endangers the state's multimillion-dollar poultry industry. A deadlier strain has killed 23 people in Asia."

"I think what we're seeing is an unprecedented vulnerability of the safety of our food supply," said Dr. Robert Lawrence, a professor of preventive medicine at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Andrew P. Dobson, a Princeton University biologist, told a recent scientific conference, "By now, you should be relatively scared."

What puts increased pressure on the food safety system is the fact that consumers demand year-round produce. They want access to as much meat and poultry as possible. Many shoppers thrive on new products from new places, and the retailing and manufacturing communities spend billions of dollars introducing such items to the marketplace.

This puts the regulatory behind the eight ball, trying to hire enough people and create sufficient systems to handle the pressure in a manner that is both scientifically and economically responsible. And because the regulatory system is almost by definition reactive, it opens regulatory agencies to criticism when there are breaches of the food safety net.
KC's View:
We keep wondering what might happen to the retailer that tells consumers they can't have this product or that because of questions about food safety. (We're talking vague questions here, not specific issues.) On the one hand, consumers might go in droves to a competitive retailer that has the product…but on the other, it's possible that the retailer might actually cement its relationship with consumers who will be grateful that their interests are being looked out for.