Krugman gets a Rotten Tomato

Paul Krugman is attacking Milton Friedman (again) for rotten tomatoes.  Here’s Krugman in 2007:

These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there
may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and
melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your
chicken sandwich.

Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating?
Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some
blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman.

…Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years.

and here he is today repeating himself:

Lately, however, there always
seems to be at least one food-safety crisis in the headlines – tainted
spinach, poisonous peanut butter and, currently, the attack of the
killer tomatoes.

How did America find itself back in The Jungle?

I was curious so I collected data from the Center for Disease Control on Foodborne Disease Outbreaks from 1998-2006.   The data only go back to 1998 because in that year the CDC changed its surveillance system creating a discontinuity but note that we are covering a chunk of the Clinton years and are well within the time frame over which Krugman says the safety system has degenerated.  Here’s the result:


What we see is a lot of variability from year to year but a net downward trend.  You can also look at cases per year which are more variable but also show a net downward trend.  No evidence whatsoever that we are back "in The Jungle."


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