It’s no small matter: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people become ill from foodborne illnesses. About 128,000 have to be hospitalized, and nearly 3,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses.
As outbreaks of E. coli and other pathogens in produce and other foods continue to be problematic in the United States, a Second Century Initiative (2CI) faculty member at Georgia State University is taking a full look at the American food safety system.
Timothy Lytton’s new book, Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety (University of Chicago Press, 2019), evaluates food safety efforts all the way back to the 1800s to combat pathogens that can cause deadly foodborne illness outbreaks — infected milk, tained meat and biohazardous leafy vegetables, among others. These outbreaks led to scientific and technological advances, but problems persist.
The problems aren’t just about insufficient regulatory agency budgets or regulations alone, but also pressures to keep food prices down, and the limits of scientific knowledge, among other complex parts of the safety system that might otherwise be overlooked by a casual observer — such as private audits and liability insurance.
In the book, Lytton, a professor in the Center for Law, Health & Society of the Georgia State College of Law offers practical reforms to strengthen the food safety system’s mistakes, and discover cost-effective food safety efforts that can produce measurable public health benefits.
“One hope of this book is that closer attention to the details of an area of health and safety regulation that affects everyone and that is, in many ways, typical, will replace some of this rhetoric with an appreciation for the variety of available tools and techniques of governance, the interdependence of public and private efforts to manage risk, and the importance of feedback and learning,” Lytton writes.
“Setting aside the sharp dichotomy between public regulation and private ordering, and focusing more on the realities of risk management, one sees that government is frequently less heavy handed and industry more socially responsible than popular political discourse would lead one to believe,” he continues.
For more information about the book, visit the University of Chicago Press at https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo35855002.html. For more about Lytton, visit https://nextgen.gsu.edu/2018/11/28/2ci-faculty-qa-timothy-lytton/.
– Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager, Office of the Provost