Dogma triumphs over data in Canada’s food safety public relations bubble

From Doug Powell at Barfblog:

Image via Barfblog.

“Canada has the best health care system in the world.

And really clean water.

And really safe food.

And a lot of delusional people who apparently think repetition rather than data makes something true.

This week was particularly strong for some food safety nosestretchers in the wake of comments make by supermarket mogul Galen Weston Jr. that food at farmer’s markets were going to kill someone someday.

First up, Sylvain Charlebois, acting dean and professor at the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics, who wrote in a widely circulated op-ed that,

“The 2003 mad cow crisis in Canada was really the first major food safety-related event our country had experienced.”

In 1998, 805 Canadians, primarily children between 6- and 10-years-old, were sickened with Salmonella Enteriditis linked to Schneiders Lunchmates. That really was a major food safety event. So was E. coli O157:H7 in the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario in 2000, which killed 7 and sickened 2,500 in a town of 5,000.

Maybe not enough dead people?

In 1985, 19 of 55 affected people at a London, Ontario nursing home (that’s in Canada) died after eating sandwiches apparently infected with E. coli O157. A subsequent inquest into the outbreak yielded numerous stories about the “obscure but deadly bacterium, E. coli O157.” On Oct. 12, 1985, in response to the on-going inquest, the Ontario government announced a training program for food-handlers in health-care institutions, “stressing cleaning and sanitizing procedures and hygienic practices in food preparation.”

The 648 sickened from salmonella in sprouts in Ontario in 2005 would also count as a major outbreak.

Next, Roger George, a retired farmer, a former provincial and national farm leader and the author of the 2002 Agricultural Odyssey Report, writes in the North Bay Nipissing that,

“The Canadian food supply at all levels is among the safest and the most regulated in the world.”

Or as Rick Holley of the University of Manitoba says,“The food safety system in Canada is on the upper end of being mediocre.”

Back to AD Charlebois.

“We also need to celebrate our successes in food safety. The mere fact that the 2008 Maple Leaf listeria outbreak was discovered early is an achievement in itself.”…”

Read it all on Barfblog.

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