Dozens of parents and loved ones are grieving the deaths of 22 children in India. Food they were served in a school lunch program was contaminated with insecticides. In addition, about 25 other children were sickened, as well as some of the preparers.
Here in the United States, we eat out regularly, and we buy huge quantities of foodstuffs from grocery stores. Knowing little about the source or preparation of the foods, we trust various governmental inspectors to stop unhygienic practices. But since only a tiny portion of the food that is sold can be inspected, we necessarily depend upon the integrity and vigilance of the sellers to avoid providing unsafe products.
This system is not perfect. Thousands in the Unites States became ill just a few years ago by peanut butter produced in unsanitary conditions. The product had salmonella, and it caused medium-to-severe gastrointestinal problems.
Because there is little consumers can do to protect themselves, and because governmental regulators cannot inspect most of the food sold in this country, it is vital that food producers, retailers, and restaurants vigorously ensure that their food is healthy. And they must be held accountable when they fail in this responsibility. Otherwise, those sellers who do not employ safe practices will gain an economic advantage over others, and there will result a “race for the bottom” in which an entire industry cuts corners at the public’s expense. We must avoid going backwards in public health and nutrition. The recent tragedy in India serves as a clarion call to a continued commitment to food safety. It is the least a child deserves.