Free market demands rational choice making

WebMD carried this warning about certain foods.

Oct. 10, 2007 — Check your freezer for Banquet or generic store-brand turkey or chicken not-ready-to-eat pot pies with “P-9” printed on the side of the package.

If you have any those pot pie products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says to throw them out or don’t eat them as health officials investigate a multi-state salmonella outbreak.

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Most people recover within a week without treatment, but serious complications can occur. Infants, elders, and people with weak immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from salmonella.

The USDA, CDC, and state health officials are investigating at least 139 cases of salmonella in 30 states that were reported this year and that may be related to the pot pies. At least 20 people have been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak, according to the CDC.

There have been shouting headlines about recalls in the press concerning various products. Assuming we are in a trickier environment now in determining safety of products, how is information to be handled to help the consumer know a problem exists?

Home Depot advertizes eco-products but also had to recall spray product that stayed on the shelves after the company recalled product because of the link to respitory problems when used as directed, and accepted the supplier (American) claim it had re-configured the active ingredient, which was actually not accurate. But old product also remained on shelves. Other examples include oscillating fans.

So inventory safety can be tough to monitor even within the US. What of global markets when the same product could have been made in two or three counties (generic drugs).

My apologies to Home Depot for picking on them. This is a global issue.

Not every recall is earth shattering news, but how is a consumer in a free market economy to make the rational decisions to conform to the rational behavior that market theory demands?