And just as they haven’t changed very much for a number of years, the number of cases and deaths from food borne illness are not likely to change much after these efforts. The numbers that have recently been released on the cost of food borne illness do not reveal anything not already known. They ,may primarily be a reflection of how the Centers for Disease Control models what they call “attribution.” That is, even where there is weak evidence, CDC creates models to attribute cases of food borne disease (also modeled) to specific foods based on their formulas.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in those numbers, but that is really not the issue. The issue is what can and should be done about the problem. Before FDA is forced into regulation, and before Congress passes laws that require FDA to use the same static approach to solving problems (regulation and inspection) that it has used for over 100 years, we should slow down. That way, the real progress that FDA and industry have the potential to make isn’t stopped in its tracks.
Richard Williams is the managing director of the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and was director for social sciences at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the Food and Drug Administration for 27 years.
David Bieler is a Masters fellow in the Regulatory Studies Program.