Thursday, October 16, 2008


Food Safety: Getting Beyond Bullshit und Ɯberbullshit!

As a consumer, former meat research microbiologist (Canada Packers) and former regulatory microbiologist and program planner/evaluator (Health Canada), I would like suggest that it is time to stop bullshitting ( see Frankfurt, Harry G. 2005 - On Bullshit, Princeton U. Press or ) about food safety. On the one hand the official body counters inform us that there are up to 13 million cases of microbial foodborne disease and up to 500 deaths in Canada each year. On the other hand every time there is an outbreak we pretend that we never heard of foodborne disease before! Perhaps the most sickening part during the current listeria crisis was the games that were being played by various interest groups, from political parties to unions representing inspectors. It makes very little difference how many inspectors there are - food safety will ultimately always be the responsibility of the manufacturer and that includes the whole range of quality control/assurance, process development and sanitation etc. The role of the regulator will always be to create an environment where manufacturers produce foods that are compliant and represent minimal risk to all consumers - and the consumers 'R' us! Finally, past experience has shown that it does not matter whether the liberals or the conservatives are in power - bullshit appears to be the first response. In 2000 our food regulatory system send out 12 million copies of a brochure entitled "Food Safety and You" which starts as follows: "There's a good reason why the foods we eat in Canada are safe." Knowing that that is simply not true I filed an ATIP request to see why this publication was sent out to Canadians. Here is what I found out: "public opinion research done in September 1999 indicated that 'confidence in the food safety system may be eroding slightly'." Therefore $2,600,000 was spent to distribute 12 million copies of this bullshit statement. As a consumer and food microbiologist I see two major problems associated with this careless use of the term "safe." First, it shows callous disrespect for those individuals who died from these risks and essentially denies their life, and it appears unkind to their surviving relatives. Second, it is clearly credibility-destroying behaviour by the regulatory and scientific community. Is it any surprise that our credibility as scientists is being eroded? While we like to blame the media I believe that we members of the regulatory/scientific community are entirely to blame!

Presented at the:
OCTG - Ottawa Creative Thinking Group Meeting, October 15, 2008, Ottawa, Ontario
by G.W. (Bill) Riedel, PhD


Selected references:

1. Lecours, Pierre; Gilles Paquet - Communication and ethics, how to scheme virtuously, Optimum online, vol. 36(2), June 2006 - note Lecours is Project Manager at the Center for Workplace Ethics at Health Canada.

2. Neil Postman - "Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection", paper delivered at the National Convention for the Teachers of English on November 28, 1969 in Washington,

3. Wildeman, Alan - Mad Cow Disease in Canada: Where do we go from here, Optimum online, vol. 36(2), June 2006 - note list of participants and para. 5, page 5.

4. Berkun, Scott - #53 - How to detect bullshit - (accessed Nov. 18, 2008) August 9, 2008.

5. McGinn, Colin, 2008, Mindfucking - A Critique of Mental Manipulation, Acumen

6. Maki, Dennis, G. 2009 - Coming to Grips with Foodborne Infection -- Peanut Butter, Peppers,
and Nationwide Salmonella Outbreaks, The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 360 No. 10:949-953 ( accessed March 6, 2009)

Other presentations:

Superbugs, Phage Therapy: Getting Beyond Bullshit und Ueberbullshit!

The following headlines might have appeared in Canada:

1917: Canadian microbiologist, Felix d'Herelle, discovers natural nanotechnology, bacteriophage therapy, that can cure and prevent superbug infections and foodborne bacterial disease.

2008: Canadians continue to suffer and die unnecssarily from superbug infections and foodborne disease because Canada is too venal to approve and use natural nanotchnology, bacteriophage therapy, discovered by Canadian microbiologist, Felix d'Herelle in 1917.

While 8000 to 12000 Canadians are dying from antibiotic-resistant superbug infections annually the joke is on us, as some countries still practice technology discovered by the Canadian, Felix d'Herelle in 1917. Phage therapy uses highly specific viruses, bacteriophages, which are harmless for humans, to treat bacterial infections. Phage therapy is not currently approved or practised in Canada. According to a letter signed by a former federal health minister it can be made available legally to Canadians under the Special Access Program of our Food & Drugs Act! A discussion of phage therapy is currently very timely because of the release of the Canadian film: Killer Cure: The Amazing Adventures of Bacteriophage and the book by Thomas Haeusler entitled, Viruses vs. Superbugs, a solution to the antibiotics crisis? ( see ). Both references are available at Ottawa libraries.
This file has dramatically changed because the US Food and Drug Administration has amended the US food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of a bacteriophages on ready-to-eat meat against Listeria monocytogenes (see ). Also . The idea that ready-to-eat meat can be treated if contaminated with Listeria bacteria while a doctor could not get a pharmaceutical grade phage therapy product when faced with a patient suffering listeriosis strikes this author as absurd especially considering the recent massive recall of ready-to-eat meat in Canada due to contamination with listeria. Information is available on phage therapy treatment in Georgia , Europe ( ), or Poland - ( ) or more recently at the Wound Care Center, Lubbock, Texas ( ) .
Canada should establish 'The Superbug Victim Felix d'Herelle Memorial Center for Experimental Phage Therapy' to provide phage therapy to patients when antibiotics fail or when patients are allergic to antibiotics.

The Illusion of Change: Getting Beyond Bullshit.
The Academics of Bullshit 101