AP has a story today about the salmonella poisonings teaching the food industry a lesson. They just get it wrong. The story shows a fundamental lack of understanding about what is happening to us today. The story, The Associated Press: Food industry bitten by its lobbying success
One of the worst outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. is teaching the food industry the truth of the adage, “Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.”
The industry pressured the Bush administration years ago to limit the paperwork companies would have to keep to help U.S. health investigators quickly trace produce that sickens consumers, according to interviews and government reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The White House also killed a plan to require the industry to maintain electronic tracking records that could be reviewed easily during a crisis to search for an outbreak’s source. Companies complained the proposals were too burdensome and costly, and warned they could disrupt the availability of consumers’ favorite foods.
The apparent but unintended consequences of the lobbying success: a paper record-keeping system that has slowed investigators, with estimated business losses of $250 million. So far, nearly 1,300 people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have been sickened by salmonella since April.
This is a consequence of our habit of thinking of corporations and industries as some kind of sentient entities. They are not.
Let me tell you how this really works: The executives who killed regulation pocketed cash — when people later get sick insurance companies and shareholders are the ones who pay for it. There is no sentient being called “food industry” or “tomato company” at work here. There are a few executives who got rich, and everyone else pays for it.
As long as we use these mental frames of industries and companies as sentient entities we will make these mistakes. When we hear that a company has an opinion or an interest, we are not hearing from Bob in Sales or Alice in Accounts Receivable, they are told from the top. A company is only a piece of paper. The people in the companies are told what to do by a few people at the top. Those people act in their OWN interests, period. When we understand this we can start to write laws and regulations that deal with reality.
(Also diaried at La Vida Locavore — “the blog for anyone whose crazy life includes planting, growing, weeding, fertilizing, raising, picking, harvesting, processing, cooking, baking, making, serving, buying, selling, distributing, transporting, composting, organizing around, lobbying about, writing about, thinking about, talking about, playing with, and eating food!”)