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HLS 6030 DF5 Comments: The Food Poisonings (Essay Sample)


Comment on these three post as if you were me with a 100 words each, DO NOT COMPARE THE POSTS, and put 3 references for each post, and please seperate the references.
Jessica Walsh
When looking for authoritative information on the food poisonings I believe the best place to look would be medical records that are publicly available. These medical records could be considered authoritative because according to Phersonand Pherson, authoritative records include official government records such as birth and death certificates. Obviously medical records will have the patient's name redacted in order to protect their privacy, but ideally would include information on the persons sex, age, and health status. When trying to garner a better understanding of the food poisoning crisis it is essential to determine who is being affected the most, and while open source media described the types of people affected, medical records can be authenticated, are a primary source, and for the most part can be secured from tampering (Pherson & Pherson, 2017). However, a major downside to using medical records for authoritative information is their availability. Sensitive records pertaining to a person's health may be protected by privacy laws, such as the HIPPA law we have int he United States. Also, without a proper clearance or governmental status obtaining the records might be impossible. If I was researching this incident in real time, as a graduate student, it is highly unlikely I would have access to this type of authoritative information.
Tangible evidence used in the German case study included the E. coli bacteria itself, that scientists were studying and analyzing in an effort to determine why this particular strain was so powerful. This case seemed to be concentrated more on the actual bacteria strain and focusing on its makeup. Germany went as far as sending the bacteria to China so that the genome can be sequenced (Pherson & Pherson, 2017). I cannot argue against the fact that sequencing the bacteria is important, it will provide doctors with more knowledge and put them in a better position to treat patients. However, I feel that testimonial evidence would have been better suited for this case. The patients themselves should have been interviewed, with analysts simply asking "what have you ate in the past several days." A major issue in the German case was that the cause of the outbreak was constantly changing, it went from cucumbers from Spain, to salad vegetables, to bean sprouts. There never seemed to be a clear answer and people were put in fear and were avoiding vegetables all together. Testimonial evidence would have allowed investigators to narrow down what could have been the cause which would have allowed for a better food recall strategy and likely wouldn't have impacted the farming industry as bad as it did. Both testimonial and tangible evidence can be helpful, and there is a tendency to believe that tangible is more reliable because it is harder to fake or manipulate.
I do believe that there are situations where the credibility of the collector could be confused with the credibility of the source. As analysts we may fall into a trap where we trust the source of the information because it has been reliable in the past, even thought the current information being given may be inaccurate. For example, when using an informant an analyst may be able to trust that individual based on their past abilities to rely helpful information, the collector is credible. However, the source of the informant's information may not be credible, especially if the informant doesn't understand what is being said or the source is lying or hiding information. It is important to not fall into that trap and have a critical mind when evaluating source intelligence.
Pherson, K., & Pherson, R. (2017). Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Douglas Mahoney
For information regarding the food poisoning outbreak reported in Germany, I would want to look at a few sources for different types of authoritative information surrounding the E. Coli strains that affected Germany in 2011. Considering local statistics such as numbers of people affected, signs and symptoms, areas of the country, and possible foods eaten, I would use local sources such as Germany’s national disease control agency. The local agencies are at ground zero and have a better understanding of these statistics. For international information, such as the illness traveling, looking towards the World Health Organization for information would be beneficial. If you were seeking more information on the strain itself, it would be beneficial to look towards organizations such as the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen (BGI-Shenzhen). The BGI-Shenzhen had hands on experience with the strain and could evaluate it.
Tangible evidence is evidence that is fact. In this case, I would say that tangible evidence is evidence that was actually touched and handled by the agencies looking into the outbreak. This would be the actual strain that was sequenced by BGI-Shenzhen, the Spanish produce including cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes, and the patients that came into the hospitals and that were diagnosed through testing with this illness. Other than that, I believe that this case was based mostly on testimonial evidence, which can be flawed. In the early stages, there was a lot of false reports and speculations of where the illness was steaming from, and how many people were affected. This caused panic, affecting the farmer’s sales, and eventually the economy in the area. For this reason, I believe that tangible evidence is much more trustworthy. Pherson writes about the effect of false testimonial evidence from German officials writing, “German officials were also criticized for involving too many agencies in the investigation and for providing information that was not scientifically confirmed. Skeptics noted that no scientific evidence had been found linking the Spanish cucumbers to the health crisis, nor had any evidence been uncovered that pointed conclusively to German bean sprouts. The premature release of information regarding the potential source of the infection had increased fears and harmed businesses needlessly” (Pherson, pg. 289).
The credibility of the original source is crucial in affecting the credibility of the information as it travels from location to location and agency to agency. In the early stages of the investigation, much of the evidence was false testimonial evidence about where the illness may be coming from. An example is that unknown press sources in Germany claimed that the illness was coming from cucumbers from Spain or Germany. As a result, German officials advised people to avoid most produce with no real evidence. Then the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) flags Spanish produce based off what German officials are saying, that steamed from unknown press releases. It seems to be a domino effect starting from false testimonial evidence that affects the credibility of the collector.

Pherson, K. H., & Pherson, R. H. (2016). Critical thinking for strategic intelligence. Washington, D.C.: CQ PRESS.
Katherine Albers
I would look for authoritative information about the outbreak from hospitals treating patients or scientific agencies like the World Health Organization. The data coming from hospitals meets the criteria of a credible source. Likewise with the scientific agencies like the WHO or BGI-Shenzhen. They both have credibility and the tangible evidence of scientific research behind them.
This case study is based much more on testimonial evidence than tangible evidence. Tangible evidence is undoubtedly more trustworthy than testimonial evidence, though tangible evidence sometimes needs interpretation. The tangible evidence used in this study includes the data from hospitals regarding the numbers of patients being treated for E. coli, the scientific findings of the WHO and BGI-Shenzhen, and the information regarding European farmers’ losses from the European Farmers’ Union Copa & Cogeca (Pherson, 2017). By the end of the outbreak, there was still no definitive answer as to where the E. coli came from, but damage to European farmers from false testimonial evidence had already been done.
I definitely believe that the credibility of the collector and the credibility of the source can be confused. News outlets are often seen as authoritative sources of information, but this case shows how unsubstantiated information can be rapidly spread through the news. With the global 24 hour news cycle, every news outlet attempts to break a story first. No reputable news outlet is going to purposefully release information it knows to be false, but in the rush to be first, sources may not be vetted as much as they should be. By misstating at the beginning of the outbreak that the e. coli may have come from cucumbers imported from Spain, Spanish farmers were losing 200 euros per week. (Pherson, 2017) The case study doesn’t specify from where the news outlets received their information regarding the cucumbers or other raw vegetables, but there is a good chance it came from a combination of knowledge from previous E. coli outbreaks and shear speculation. Even US Food and Drug Administration fell into the trap. Based on news reports stating the tainted produce came from Spain, the FDA flagged Spanish produce for risk of infection (Pherson, 2017). The average American would see the FDA as a credible source of information, so most would assume the FDA flagged the produce based on credible scientific evidence, not the fact that Spain was the most commonly cited source of the tainted produce.

Pherson, K. & Pherson, R. (2017). Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, An Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc.


Institution of affiliation
Jessica Walsh
I agree with the assertion that it would have been better to concentrate of the source of the bacteria. Genome sequencing would take too long. Further, this provided a long term solution. It did not provide a means to stop the bacteria spread. The analyst should consistently question the information provided. This will ensure that the credibility of the source and informant is sustained. I agree with the use of medical records for research. Despite the difficulty in obtaining them, these are authoritative and provide credibility.
Portnoy, B. L., 1975. An Outbreak of Bacillus Cereus Food Poisoning Resulting From Contaminated Vegetable Sprouts. American Journal of Epidemiology, 103(6), pp. 589-594.
Ray, B., 2014. Fundamental Food Microbiology. 5 ed.: CRC Press.
WHO, 2007. Children and Food Safety. [Online]
Available at: /ceh/capacity/food.pdf.
Douglas Mahoney
The preference of tangible evidence over testimonial evidence is sound. I appreciate that testimonial evidence is easily manipulated. The subjectivity involved renders this type of evidence without credibility. Tangible evidence will...
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