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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

E. coli Outbreak – 2 year old dies and farmers get $304 million

Screen shot 2011-06-14 at 11.34.42 AM.pngThink about it.

According to German news, the death toll hit 37 on Tuesday after a 2 year old boy from Celle in northern Germany died from kidney failure caused by the infection. He was the first child to die. Until Tuesday, the youngest victim had been 20.

Over at Bloomberg it was announced that the European Union has approved financial aid of 210 million euros ($304 million) for fruit and vegetable farmers whose sales have been hit by a deadly (to people, not farmers) E. coli outbreak. The aid package will be used to compensate European producers of cucumbers, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers, for up to half the value of goods withdrawn from the market due to a lack of consumer demand, based on a reference price.

Too bad the 2 year old will not grow up to be one of these lucky farmers.

  • Harry Hamil

    “Lucky farmers?”
    They’ve been ‘lucky” enough to work long and hard while risking everything they own to produce safe food that goes unpurchased because consumers have been terrified by warnings made by regulators who have done a poor job.
    They’ve been “lucky” enough to watch their work destroyed through no fault of their own.
    Some will undoubtedly prove to be “lucky” enough to have been put out of business.
    Others will have been “lucky” enough to be forced to borrow more money and work years to repay it to be able to survive just as occurred to tomato growers due to the incompetence of the FDA in the 2008 tomato/pepper fiasco.
    Shame on you, Bill Marler, for your bigotry. In case you think my description doesn’t apply, here’s the first definition from Dictionary.com, “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.”
    Of course, you can censor my comment for being on point and accurate just as you have in the past.

  • Harry, Harry – over 3,000 people have been sickened, 800 with HUS, a good percentage will require kidney transplants, and 37 – including a two year old have died – through no fault of their own (as you would say). My point was simply the fairness. Farmers with their hand’s out before the bodies are even cold – bad form in my book.
    Do I think farmers should be compensated for losses – you bet – but come on, keep it in perspective. In fact, this is what I said the other day, but of course you ignore everything that you can not bitch about:
    Of course no one has spoken of the cost to the human victims. All of the gnashing of teeth has been over the loss to farmers (true, human too) around the world (especially Spain) as people shy away from potentially contaminated vegetables and as product is recalled and destroyed. Farmers should be compensated – especially those who have suffered because of being incorrectly targeted for the cause of the outbreak.

  • dangermaus

    This, as is anything like this, is a tragedy. I hope I personally never have to cope with this kind of personal loss, whether from food-borne illness or something like the Tylenol poisoning in the 80’s.
    That said, I don’t see the necessary connection between the cost to the victims of the contaminated food (and their families), and cost to the farmers who became victims of failed attempts to address the problem that the writer apparently does. Is the implication that whatever EU body that is going to repay the farmers should also compensate the victims of the illness, simply because they already have their checkbook out?
    If that is the implication, it reflects a naive concept/expectation of what “fair” is. Is it “fair” that they’re not getting financial compensation for their suffering? Hell no! Of course not! But, of course, that doesn’t matter because “life is not fair”, and the history is full of much more blatant examples. If you go down that road, I think you’d have to look at everything of value in a society as owned by everyone in that society, not by individuals or organizations therein – and then, how do you manage who has access to and control over what? That’s how Cuba tries to run their economy, and you can decide for yourself how well that’s working out.
    I guess I’m not sure about what you mean by “bigotry”… Are you using the word’s (archaic) root origin meaning “sanctimonious”? I probably can get behind that assertion, but I don’t think most people are going to understand what you mean… I think “bigotry” means “intolerance” as in “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, etc. to most people, and personally, I don’t really see that here.

  • It is my job to make sure that the victims are treated fairly. There are other options. Perhaps the farmers could forgo getting compensation and make sure the victims are taken care of. Either way you look at it there are costs, some get covered and some do not – that is public policy – not being fair.

  • Doc Mudd

    Aw, hell, the EU has a strong reputation for sheltering and protecting their farmers (they certainly are no strangers to subsidies and protective tariffs!) and there is no reason to worry this episode will be any different. I agree with Bill Marler that the farmers could show a little class, be at least patient enough for the dead and criically ill to get squared away before clamoring with outstretched hands.
    Little doubt veggie businesses have some reparations coming, but there definitely needs to be some context. Recall the Spanish organic cucumbers cultured positive for fecal E. coli when they were tested – just didn’t happen to be the precise strain being sought…this time. Still, an inferior organic product was detected that could easily precipitate the next outbreak. Should these organic producers be fully compensated, partially compensated, or fined for passing off unsanitary product?
    For once, the Russians seem to have the right idea. They banned European vegetables and have announced they will lift the ban but will require certification of safety going forward. This may address the key failure leading up to this historic outbreak – it seems nothing was being adequately tested and no one feared being held accountable. Blind faith and a virtual food safety risk free-for-all prevailed until the law of averages caught up with them, as it inevitably will.
    Just seems the farmers are in much too big a hurry to rake in some fast cash and use the distraction to quietly sweep all traces of the catastrophe under the rug. It’s an excellent time for a thorough industry-wide safety audit and a modern food safety reset for these martyred veggie growers and purveyors, while their attention is fully focused and there is some incentive to comply with safety protocols.

  • Minkpuppy

    So have these farmers learned anything from this fiasco? Have any of them stopped to re-evaluate and/or change how they’re doing things from a food safety standpoint on their farms or do they expect compensation again the next time something like this happens?
    I agree that there should be some sort of help for all the victims including the producers who’s products were wrongly implicated. However, those producers ought to show how they’re going to prevent this in the future in order to qualify for compensation.
    I’m not surprised that they didn’t even wait for the bodies to get cold before sticking their hands out. Europe has a much more fatalistic approach to life and death then us Yanks. Still think it was pretty tasteless of them.

  • dangermaus

    “Perhaps the farmers could forgo getting compensation”
    That makes about as much as you or I writing them a check for their suffering. This kind of thinking is why about a quarter of the US is clamoring for deregulation, without regard for the cost.