US consumers have the luxury of not worrying about food safety or the contents of the food they buy; whether that’s because of a required label is up for debate.

In an era where we think we need to label U.S. food with everything you can think of, and, at the same time, on a daily basis, someone is pointing out what is “wrong” with our food system, let’s pause and think about what is “right.”

It was a National Geographic article entitled “Food Fraud: Labels on What We Eat Often Mislead that led me down this line of thinking.

The article covers the European horse meat scandal from earlier in 2013 in which meat labeled as beef was DNA tested to be as much as 100 percent horse meat. It also goes on to talk about labeling scandals from around the world, including rat meat and zebra. However, there was one paragraph that caught my attention and was not emphasized at all in the article.

“Unlike in Europe and some other places, meat fraud has not been a widespread problem in the United States, thanks largely to tough regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”


The safety of US food

That is the underlying story that never gets enough attention. U.S. consumers have the luxury of not worrying about food safety or the contents of the food they are actually buying.

The CDC reports the U.S. has about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually. That number was at 72 million per year until the Food Safety Modernization Act passed. In just one week the number dropped to 48 million, but that political game can be discussed later.

The real story is that a million meals are consumed every single day in the U.S., and the risk of getting sick from these meals for any reason — other than a screw up during food preparation — is nearly nonexistent.

Campylobacter is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. (14 people for every 100,000) but compare that to the EU which has 45.6 of every 100,000.  Vibrio from the consumption of raw oysters is the only other foodborne illness that has increased since 2006.

The bottom line is, let’s spend a couple of minutes celebrating the American food system — it’s authenticity, its safety and its affordability. That will be much more productive than dreaming up some new labeling requirement that does nothing to educate the consumer.