Monday, September 25, 2006

Destroying an Industry 

The E Coli outbreak in the California spinach industry is the worst kind of crisis. It is destroying an industry because no one is sure yet how or why it happened. There is no immediate resolution, no way for a company to promise change, no way to assess fault. The plants have been declared clean. The fault appears to lie somewhere in the fields, perhaps in the water used to grow the plants, but no one could say for sure all last week. It may be days before resolution. Meanwhile, vegetables rot, and growers lose millions.

The processing plants have been proactive in informing the public of their laboratory results. They have answered hundreds of questions, but it isn't making much difference. Meanwhile, attorneys have filed lawsuits; stories about the death of babies have reach print and other unfortunate details are in place for a long-term impact.

There are crises that are acts of nature, and no one's fault, but that doesn't make much difference in the US. We're a culture that demands someone to take the blame -- and pay up. Perhaps there was reckless behavior, and farmers ignored warnings. If so, they deserve punishment. But, if there wasn't and bacteria slipped into the growing chain through a previously unknown source...?

Perceptually, the US long ago moved to the principle of "guilty until proven partially innocent." One never leaves such situations behind. They live in archives and in memory. Even if scientists eliminate a bad actor from the food chain, there will be those who will never touch fresh spinach again, and the growing region may lose one of its more valuable crops.


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?