At least 53 people have been sickened by tainted, chopped romaine lettuce in an expanding E. coli outbreak that now spans 16 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.
Source: New York Times, E.Coli Outbreak Tied to Romain Lettuce, 4/19/18.
Unless you have an advanced chemistry lab in your house or you grow all your own food — meaning, 99.99% of the US population — you assume the food you buy in grocery stores and are served in restaurants is safe to eat. That assumption is right with only infinitesimal exceptions. Let’s do the math using some “back of the envelope” numbers
- 360 million Americans
- Each eats 3 meals a day on average
- Each meal consists of 3 food items on average
That means, on average, conservatively, Americans consume 3,240,000,000 — that’s 3.2 billion — food items per day. This is a conservative estimate because in the age or processed foods, most food items contain dozens of ingredients.
Accordingly to the article, over 24 days, March 14 to April 6, or 77,760,000,000 (that 77.8 Billion) food items consumed, 53 people were reported to be made ill by the contaminated lettuce. Even if the 53 reported cases was only 1/100th of the actual number of e.coli cases, that means the food supply error rate was only 1 sickness per 147 Million food items. The average person, who lives to 80, only consumes under 300,000 food items his his or her life has a less than 0.02% chance of food poisoning in their lifetime.
In contrast, the National Safety Council reports your risk of dying from a lightening strike in your lifetime as 1 in 114,000.