- The industrial structure of production is important to take into account. For example, the cost of seeking other work with fewer occupational safety risks is greater in rural areas where meat processing plants are isolated and where workers have fewer options for employment.
- Regional concentration is also important to consider. For example, toxic algal blooms have appeared in areas where there is high regionally concentrated agricultural production, such as in the Delmarva Peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay (where poultry production is concentrated) and in the Carolinas (where hog production is concentrated).
- Capturing all stages of the life cycle, not just production and consumption, would be useful. For example, the group did not discuss food preparation by the retail sector of the food industry. Yet, the public health impact associated with the addition of salts, nitrates, or other additives to foods in restaurants or other retail establishments could be considered an externality if consumers are unaware of the addition or risks of those substances.
- Considering production methods is important when evaluating health impact. Certain foodborne illnesses are reemerging in association with changes in management practices. For example, trichinosis is reemerging in association with field-raised hogs, and some dairy-related illnesses are reemerging with a loosening of norms around pasteurization.
- While the group discussion was a great brainstorming exercise, moving forward will require a very solid literature review and analysis of available data. The matrix helped facilitate group discussion, but it may not be the best structure for more in-depth analysis.
- It is important to define the scope of the effects to be considered in a full report. For example, is the goal to examine only direct public health effects of food consumption or to more broadly examine indirect effects of the production process as well (e.g., occupational illness)? Also, is the goal to examine acute effects, chronic effects, or transgenerational effects?
MAJOR OVERARCHING THEMES OF WORKING GROUP DISCUSSIONS
Although the groups took different approaches, based on the report-backs to the group at large, the group discussions shared several major overarching themes: