Former fellow Tim Lytton (1994) just published a new book, Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety (University of Chicago Press 2019). The book examines the interplay between government regulation, private governance, and civil liability in food safety regulation. It offers general lessons about how complex regulatory systems work, with application to areas beyond food safety—such as environmental protection, financial regulation, health and safety, and labor standards. With regard to professional ethics, the book deals extensively with the institutional infrastructure and professional culture designed to address conflict of interest among private food safety inspectors paid by the companies they oversee.
With Outbreak, Timothy D. Lytton provides an up-to-date history and analysis of the US food safety system. He pays particular attention to important but frequently overlooked elements of the system, including private audits and liability insurance. Lytton chronicles efforts dating back to the 1800s to combat widespread contamination by pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella that have become frighteningly familiar to consumers. Over time, deadly foodborne illness outbreaks caused by infected milk, poison hamburgers, and tainted spinach have spurred steady scientific and technological advances in food safety. Nevertheless, problems persist. Inadequate agency budgets restrict the reach of government regulation. Pressure from consumers to keep prices down constrains industry investments in safety. The limits of scientific knowledge leave experts unable to assess policies’ effectiveness and whether measures designed to reduce contamination have actually improved public health. Outbreak offers practical reforms that will strengthen the food safety system’s capacity to learn from its mistakes and identify cost-effective food safety efforts capable of producing measurable public health benefits.
The book is available at your local book store now!