I recently came across a press release from the Weston A. Price Foundation which began, “The deadliest food borne illness outbreak in a century may be linked to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Over sixteen people have died from possible Listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes.”
A subsequent Internet search did not confirm this news. In fact, the cantaloupe investigation is still ongoing, and no one has even ventured a guess on what might have caused the outbreak.
My Internet search did reveal that the Weston A. Price Foundation is a bit out there, if you know what I mean. It advocates the consumption of raw milk — which can cause serious health problems — and prefers pasturing cows to CAFOs.
The foundation apparently has no qualms about exploiting calamity either. They don’t even need the facts to put out a news release – just run conjecture up a flagpole and urge readers to connect the dots.
Here’s how a couple of Weston staffers might have contrived the news release I read. I admit on the front end that it is entirely made up.
“Did you hear about the Listeria outbreak in those Colorado cantaloupes?”
“Yeah. Pretty nasty stuff. The story’s been getting a lot of press lately.”
“I wonder if there’s a way we can capitalize on it. You know, put out a press release blaming it all on CAFOs. We could say that runoff water from CAFOs contaminated the cantaloupes.”
“So they found proof?”
“No, but we can’t let facts get in the way of the message.”
“That’s downright shameful. But, I’m still listening.”
“We could just say in the press release that CAFOs ‘may’ have had something to do with it. Our president could talk about filthy runoff, stuff like that.”
“Don’t you think it will sound like we’re exploiting tragedy to push our agenda?”
“What’s your point ?
“Ha. Good one. Well, we need to throw in some outrage, anger, indignation, self righteousness, that type of thing.”
“Yeah. I’m getting the picture now. How about if we demand that public health officials investigate the CAFOs? Then, at the end, we’ll push the benefits of pastured cows and raw milk.”
“Better leave off the raw milk. I heard some people got sick from that.”
“Not really exemplary journalism, you know.”
“So you were expecting a Pulitzer?”
“Have it on my desk by Friday morning. Give people the weekend to think about it.”
“You got it, boss.”
In a few weeks, I have no doubt that sound science will prevail in finding the cause of this terrible outbreak. Meanwhile, those wishing to exploit the tragedy or speculate about it need to take a break.