Tag Archives: health

Losing Consumers’ Trust

Last week their was a recall of 143 million pounds of beef in the USA. Lets take a short systemic view at what is going on. The public has an interest in a safe food supply which is difficult to enforce through caveat emptor (buyer beware). So this is a natural situation for government regulation (to protect the public interest) – plus it relates to public health which is another natural for government regulation.

The USDA regulates the industry and puts in place rules as new threats emerge. So a few years ago they instituted rules that if an animal can’t walk after the USDA pre-death inspection they be re-inspected “largely as a precaution against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease .” It seems hard to argue with that plan. If the pressures to maximize profits (assuring every cow is processed) exceed the desire to take precautions to ensure the safety of customers the risk of losing the trust of consumers is great.

There have been several instances, that have been made public, which call into question how effective the system is at preventing self interest from endangering the food supply. That then calls into question the safety of all meat that is part of that system. Many in the industry seem not to realize that they will be judged by the failures of any in the industry. And in my view, it is in their interests to have strong protections industry-wide.

The export market for meat is large. For political reasons some countries aim to protect local farmers and ranchers (the USA is a huge subsidizer of farmers and ranchersSugar Industry Quotas). And when the system continually shows that bad practices are allowed to continue it makes it a very easy decision to not allow the import of meat. Why would a country want to import food from a system that fails to follow food safety standards (especially if politically that is what they want to do – this provides them a pretty darn good reason to do what they want).
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Vacation: Systems Thinking

There’s more vacation time on tap for you (in the USA) by Chris Taylor:

U.S. employees are taking less time off than ever: Not only is the average number of annual vacation days granted to them a mere 12.4 – less than that of the average medieval peasant – but more than a third of us don’t even use all of our allotted time off.

While a dramatic contrast, I don’t really believe it is accurate. I believe workers in the USA get 8 to 10 paid holidays in addition to the 12.4 paid vacation days. Which contrasts with my view of medieval peasants. Part of the vacation issue is a decision, by workers, to seek more pay rather than more vacation. I want to look at the point to some of the organizational issues here though.

Several factors make it desirable to work those you have more. Health care insurance costs are high, if you can get 1900 hours of work a year for the health care premium instead of 1500 hours that can add up to a great deal of savings. Of course if you decrease the health of your workforce, in doing so, that will drive up the costs per worker (but that is one of those unknowable numbers Dr. Deming discussed while the expenditure per worker is easy to see). It costs money to hire, train, manage… people. The fewer you have the less associated costs. Assuming other things stay the same. Or course that assuming is the tricky part.

Yet more studies have shown, not surprisingly, that an overworked employee is more likely to make mistakes and get angry at their bosses – and 30 percent of us feel chronically overworked. Indeed, job burnout costs the U.S. economy an estimated $300 billion a year in accidents, employee turnover, diminished productivity and medical costs, according to the American Institute of Stress.

It would seem the American Institute of Stress might have a bias, but even so…

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