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06 September 2015 - Headlines, Realism vs. Sensationalism

My wife Gloria subscribes to the national magazine Consumer Reports. The current issue, which arrived in our mailbox just a few days ago, sent my blood pressure sharply higher because of the cover and the article.

On the cover of the magazine was the head of a steer, with the headline “Wanted, Safe Beef. Bacteria tainted ground beef remains a major source of serious illness in the United States. We know how to make the system better. What’s holding us back?”

Why did that headline send my blood pressure higher? Because to me the magazine editors are saying beef is not safe, and that headline raises questions in the minds of consumers about the safety of their beef. In my book, I would certainly call it a misleading headline.

Then I go to the lengthy article inside the magazine and what do I find? Another headline and sub-headline implying again that eating beef can be dangerous to your health. The headline of the story is “How Safe is Your Beef?” with the sub-headline, “If you don’t know how the ground beef you eat was raised, you may be putting yourself at higher risk of illness from dangerous bacteria. You OK with that?” -

What did Consumer Reports offer as their solution? Several things that producers and processors are already doing. In a sub-section entitled “This is what we think would make it a lot better.” they suggested the following....

  1. Beef up inspection practices.
  2. Protect the public from salmonella.
  3. Prohibit chicken waste in cattle feed.
  4. Crack down on the ‘natural’ label.
  5. Expand humane treatment to the requirements for organic labels.
  6. Ban antibiotic use for disease prevention.

We already are doing Numbers 1, 2 & 3. No. 4 is in the hands of USDA and the FDA; as for No. 5, I have no idea what humane treatment has to do with the organic label, and No. 6, we are aware of the antibiotic situation and the entire industry is working on it. Personally, I want to eat beef from an animal that is healthy and if it takes antibiotics to cure an illness before it goes to market, I am in favor of that.

So again, I am bothered by the headline because I think our beef is safe. When you realize the billions of pounds of beef that are produced, processed and consumed every year without causing illness, I think our system works very well. And I also know, as long as humans are involved, nothing will be 100% safe. And to Consumer Reports, I offer this advice, use more honest, less scarey headlines.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.