The Corner

Bse: a Counter Example

From a reader:

Jonah,

I’m kind of undecided on this. It is also forbidden, for instance, for airlines to advertise their safety records or the purported superiority of their maintenance practices, even if those claims are demonstrably true. The reason? All airlines must comply with FAA safety requirements, which are supposed to guarantee a baseline level of public safety. If airlines start publicly arguing back and forth about which carrier is the safest, it suddenly makes safety an issue in the minds of fliers, makes them think/worry about it more, and thereby decreases public confidence in the safety of the entire industry.

I would imagine that the Department of Agriculture is thinking much along the same lines. Their regulations are supposed to guarantee that all meat is “safe.” If company XYZ starts claiming that its meat is “safer,” what does that say to the consumer about the safety of the “regular” meat and the effectiveness of D of A regulations? Is it not reasonable that demand for all meat may go down as a result? Now maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t know, but at least with the airlines, the thinking is that a “safety war” could make flying too expensive for many people, lead to increased numbers of lawsuits, and eventually lead to several carriers going bankrupt.

The same kinds of things could happen in the beef industry. If one company tests all their cows, and a “discount” meat producer doesn’t, then even though the discounter is following government regulations, he is now open to lawsuits for not going as far as his high-priced counterparts.

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