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FDA ban on spinach

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It's no secret that there's something bad going around in the spinach supply in this country. This isn't widely known because the FDA detected and reported to the public about it. It's widely known because the spinach growers recognize that it's in their best interest to not kill their customers. That they are willing to use government oversight instead of overseeing themselves doesn't change the fact that the FDA is a superflouous, unnecessary government institution. Richard Ralston, in his recent article about the FDA, said that "Freedom is a more thorough and relentless defender of safety than layers of bureaucracy. Expanding freedom can benefit our health far more than concentrating power."

As long as those who produce spinach are not explicitly claiming that their produce is completely free of E. Coli when in fact it is [edit]NOT[edit], those who wish to take the (from what I've read, very acceptable) risk of eating spinach sould be free to do so. And they definitely should be free from having to fund a fact-finding mission for those who don't want to take it.

- Grant

Edited by ggdwill
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Well, properly speaking I think they should only be able to sue if the company said it was completely safe when it wasn't; i.e. when there is dishonesty involved. It's kinda like when you buy chicken; there's usually salmonella bacteria in it so if you don't prepare it correctly you could get sick, but it would be absurd to sue the company for it. Unless they claimed that there were no salmonella bacteria in it and that turned out to be false, I think you would have a case then.

When you buy something you should take the effort to find out whether it's actually good for you or not, and if a company refuses to tell you this you should look for a different company. If you do decide that the low price is worth more than the added risk (due to the uncertainty) then you have no leg to stand on later when it turns out that your assessment was wrong and it was more dangerous than you had thought.

I think the only proper reason for sueing in these situations is when there is fraud involved. It's a good idea to have third parties that can test these products for you, and give them an approval sticker or something, but even when that's not present the companies producing the products cannot be held responsible for these things unless they claimed something positive about the product that you counted on being there, and that actually wasn't there.

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Also, cant a person or family sue the spinach company if one them does get infected by the disease?
Possibly, but in this instance not probably. There is the legal concept of negligence, which says for example that if you are a professional gunsmith and you do not use ordinary caution in producing your wares, you are legally responsible for any damages that result from people using your product, such as the gun blowing up and killing the user. Under a not very fancy understanding of the concept "ordinary caution", if a gun manufacturer does not check that the inside diameter of the barrel is large enough, then when a customer puts a bullet in the chamber and fires, there will be a problem that the bullet cannot escape and all they expanding hot gas has to go somewhere: then, being sure that a barrel which is supposed to have a .45 inch inner diameter doesn't actually have a .38 inch diameter is an example of "ordinary caution" in manufacturing. Similarly, being sure that the works are made of something like steel and not brass would be ordinary caution.

The underlying idea is that when a person represents themselves as professionally doing X (like, running a dairy, making guns, being a carpenter), then we have the right to expect that their work was done with basic competence and caution. The alternative is that you would need to explicitly ask all of the bizarre questions that could be relevant, and get the maker to swear that for example the gun was made of such and such kind of steel manufactured according to so and so method, that the inner diameter of the barrel is blah blah and all of the other questions that you could think of that would be important. And it would be important to get specific explicit representations if you want to try to reduce all negligence cases to fraud, for instance you have to think of all of the poisons that might be in milk before you buy a carton of milk and get the signed certificate vowing that the milk contains no arsenic, cyanide, methanol or whatever poison you could imagine.

The concept of negligence doesn't (necessarily) entail that you are responsible for any damage that arises because of your product. If the defect is unknowable, or virtually unknowable except for subjecting the product to unreasonable testing during the manufacturing process, then you aren't generally held liable for damages. It is not reasonable to assume that manufacturers can control salmonella in chicken or trichinosis in pork, so if you were to get a case of the trots from eating raw chicken, I doubt that you could sue the manufacturer. On the other hand, it would be reasonable to expect a chicken packer to keep their bags of ricin powder separate from the chickens, so there is no contamination leading to unpleasant side-effects when an employee accidentally kicks a bag of ricin into the vat of chickens waiting to be shipped.

The question in the spinach case is whether the manufacturers were negligent, or did this outbreak happen despite them taking ordinary and reasonable precautions. If they were spraying the fields with liquified poo prior to harvest, maybe, but there seems to be no evidence that the growers or distributors were negligent, so on the face of it, I doubt the spinach company is suable.

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