Pathogen Information Is the Basic Problem for Economic Incentives
For the private marketplace to operate efficiently, buyers and sellers require information on products being bought or sold. The information problem for food safety is that pathogens in the food items for sale are not visible to the naked eye. Buyers in the food supply chain, from the farm to the restaurant or supermarket, do not have the “facts” of the current pathogen load of the product. Sellers may also be ignorant, unless they have exerted effort via pathogen testing of their inputs, control of their production/processing processes, and/or sampling and testing their finished food products. The inability to link 999/1,000 cases of US foodborne illness to the causative pathogen, food, and company causes weak incentives for companies to produce safe food. However, public or private actions can create pathogen data in the food supply chain and this data can be used to reward or punish companies for their food safety performance.
KeywordsEconomics of information Foodborne pathogens Moral hazard Free riders Economic incentives Statistical process control Food safety Contracts Traceability Third-party audits Pathogen performance standards
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Culture-independent diagnostic tests
Economic Research Service/USDA
Food and Drug Administration
Food Safety and Inspection Service/USDA
Food and Water Watch
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points
Institute of Medicine/NAS
Long term health outcome
Mechanically separated chicken
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus
National Academy of Sciences
National Research Council/NAS
National School Lunch Program
United States Department of Agriculture
Urinary tract infection
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