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Abstract

Despite knowledge that commerce in food is a profit-driven enterprise, the public has consistently put great faith in the wholesomeness and safety of the food being purchased. To some extent, such faith is necessary, even if not always justified. In making the decision to put a bite of food in one’s own mouth, or the mouth of a friend or family member, a form of faith or trust must accompany the act of eating. For who would knowingly eat food suspected to be unsafe? But that is precisely what millions of people do every year, with a great many of them falling ill as a result. It is true that only a small minority of those made ill ever learn what particular food item was the cause and what particular manufacturer was responsible. It is, however, no secret that food, in general, is a significant cause of illness each year, and is not as safe as it could be if made with greater care under more effective and transparent regulatory oversight. And it is precisely because food both could be safer, and is so often found to be unsafe, that the dynamic of concealment and revelation so inevitably leads to either denial or despair on the part of the public, with “consumers often feel[ing] powerless with reference to avoiding food safety problems.”