Cracking Michael Pollan’s Salmonella Opportunism

As with most food crises, there’s no shortage of activists offering their own self-serving “solutions” along with the recall of more than 500 million eggs. The animal-rights “Humane Society” of the United States has been steadily spinning science to promote its “cage-free” emotionalism. And PETA is flat-out calling for a universal vegan diet (while conveniently forgetting that veggies can get Salmonella, too). Now comes Supreme Foodie Commander Michael Pollan. His advice? Wax nostalgic and pay more for your food by going “organic”:

Yes, [organic eggs] cost more. Industrial, conventional eggs only cost about 13 cents apiece. The eggs I buy cost about 50 cents apiece. I tend to think that’s worth it. And, you know, two eggs for a dollar makes a very nice meal.

Pollan even admits that he doesn’t know if his preferred organic eggs are any safer (they aren’t), and told CNN that he just wants eggs from chickens raised like they did in the old days, “before we had to worry about salmonella.” But there’s a difference between worries and existence. As Reason magazine’s Ronald Bailey wrote in 2006:

In 1900, six years before Upton Sinclair wrote his great muckraking book, The Jungle, about the filthy conditions in the meatpacking industry, the death rate from gastritis, duodentitis, enteritis, and colitis was 142.7 people per 100,000. It is likely that most people experienced bouts of intestinal distress several times a year. Today, accepting CDC calculations of 5000 deaths per year implies a hundred-fold reduction, to just 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Additional good news is that the incidence of many foodborne illnesses continues to decline according to the CDC’s FoodNet surveillance network established in 1996. In its 2005 report, the CDC found that the incidence of O157:H76 infections had fallen by 29 percent from the 1996-98 level.

There’s nothing wrong with shopping at the farmer’s market like Pollan—assuming you can afford $5 pints of raspberries. But Pollan should concede that modern food production has improved food safety in general, while providing cheap food to all Americans. Instead, his broken-record soundtrack keeps replaying the advice of a high-and-mighty activist who would love nothing more than to raise the price of eggs to $8 per dozen.

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