EU Mired in Summer of Food Safety Scandals

Europe’s egg contamination scandal is finally making headlines in Britain after a small batch tainted with a toxic insecticide reached the UK from the Netherlands. On the continent, the situation is worse. Millions of eggs have been withdrawn from sale in Germany, and around 180 Dutch farms have been shut down. The German government has called the scandal a “criminal case”; the Belgian government admitted it knew about the contamination in June but didn’t speak out. It is only the latest in a number of food safety scandals to hit the EU this summer…

Poland – Europe’s biggest poultry exporter – is in a salmonella crisis. By the end of July this year, 29 cases of salmonella from Polish chicken had been reported, compared to a total of 27 during the whole of 2016. Poland’s public health institute says 4,247 patients have been so far treated for salmonella contamination, the highest number for ten years. Calling for more EU regulation isn’t an answer: EU legislators are already stuck in administrative deadlock over the use of formaldehyde to prevent the disease spreading further. The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has been considering the question for more than two years…

Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority was slammed in an independent report which found it is plagued by financial conflicts of interest. Close to half of the scientists on its expert panel have a financial relationship with one of the firms the EFSA regulates. A study by the Corporate Europe Observatory found: “46% of [EFSA] panel members have at least one financial conflict of interest with a regulated company.” Elected MEPs in the European Parliament have been telling the EFSA to address the problem for four years, but to no avail. What was all that about ‘chlorine chicken’?

mdi-timer 9 August 2017 @ 13:40 9 Aug 2017 @ 13:40 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
George Monbiot Fowls Up on Chlorine Chicken

Guardianista eco-warrior George Monbiot will be in a fowl mood today after he was caught out employing underhand statistical wizardry in an attempt to bash Brexit. Monbiot used his Guardian column to heavily hint that chlorinated chicken could be a factor behind poultry-borne infection rates which he claimed “four and five times higher in North America than in Europe“. He wrote:

“[The Adam Smith Institute] says that figures from the World Health Organisation reveal that salmonella and campylobacter infections there are “not out of line” with rates in the European Union. I checked the source: the WHO study the Adam Smith Institute cited. While the incidence of campylobacter is similar, it shows that the burdens of infection per head of population from the two species of salmonella it analyses – Salmonella typhi and Salmonella paratyphi – are, respectively, four times and five times higher in North America than in Europe. I cannot state that this is caused by chlorinated chicken, as the WHO doesn’t provide such detail. But I can state that the Adam Smith Institute’s claim is false.”

The problem with Monbiot’s wizardry it is nonsense. As the ASI comprehensively demonstrates:

“When you compare developed Western Europe, where we use the farm-to-fork approach, to developed North America, where they mostly chlorine wash at the end, the rates of the two types of salmonella seem higher in the US. But what Monbiot doesn’t report are the actual numbers. Salmonella Paratyphi A and Salmonella Typhi infections are so rare in both subregions that the difference Monbiot highlights is trivial in the context of total infections, which the WHO weights according to the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost to them. The figures are 0.1 and 0.4 DALYs per 100,000 in North America versus 0.02 and 0.09 in Western Europe, respectively. But even those average estimates are misleading: the 95% confidence intervals on those numbers all touch zero, and include the rates of the opposite countries. That is: the stats are statistically insignificant from each other. When you drill down to two such specific sub-figures, relying on imperfect sources, you can’t draw a clear result. It’s like rolling two dice three times and arguing the one with the higher number is loaded: you haven’t got enough data to make that conclusion.”

Monbiot tried to hold out on Twitter, rudely dismissing those who politely pointed out he was wrong:

These rather unfortunate tweets have been deleted and he has now belatedly admitted his mistake:

You can’t just wing it on chlorine chicken, George…

mdi-timer 28 July 2017 @ 14:07 28 Jul 2017 @ 14:07 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments