UW Seminar (Food: Eating Your Environment) arrives just in time, as another food scare makes headlines

With the recent salmonella outbreak and more than 500 million eggs recalled from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms companies, the question of food resource management, sustainability and health is at the forefront of many dinner table discussions.

The New York Times opened up a debate forum with professional insight from scientists, economists and food advocates providing opinion pieces regarding the egg recall.  The experts specialized in areas such as: microbiology (Patrick McDonough, Cornell University), public health (David McSwane, Indiana University) and science policy (Caroline Smith DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest).   And as any debate forum might go, the opinions were diverse and sometimes contradictory, although all stemming from trained professionals.

The issue of food safety is intriguing because it begins at the crossroads of science and policy.  And it raises several questions: Is more regulation in the food production business the answer? What role does the government have in controlling egg (food) safety?  How do scientists communicate the threat of food-related outbreaks to a concerned general public?  And as consumers, what is our role in ensuring our food is safe to eat?

And as you may find in the New York Times Room for Debate forum, inevitably, science quickly becomes intertwined with politics.  How, as scientists, do we inform public policy decisions without becoming too politically charged?  It certainly is a fine line that many walk.

Thankfully, these are topics of interest at an upcoming seminar series to be held at the University of Washington.  The UW College of the Environment in association with the UW Graduate School and UW Alumni Association present this series that touches upon “all things food-related”, and that draws from experts in a variety of fields and questions several areas of food policy including: Resource management, conservation and food politics.  The list of speakers is impressive, and based on the limited availability of tickets, it looks like this seminar series will be a well attended.

Although the seminars will probably not answer those specific questions from above, they should provide an excellent arena for examining the intersection of public policy, science, politics, and human health.  Hope to see you there.

For more information, go to:

UW Food Seminar Series: https://go.washington.edu/uwaa/events/2010food_lecture/details.tcl

New Yor Times Room for Debate: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/8/24/why-eggs-became-a-salmonella-hazard

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