I’ve always been a sucker for bang, bang presentations.  Why so many wait so long before getting to the point, I’ve never been able to figure.  

Whether it’s something I am reading or, God forbid, I have to sit and listen to somebody, I am not just thinking “get to the point,” I am thinking “point?”

Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics” column is example of work I like to read. She puts her opinion and facts to support it straight across the plate.  There is no missing what she has to say.   

The great opinion writers are not the ones you agree with or disagree with, they are the ones whose words you can repeat with some accuracy an hour or day later.  

Harper’s Magazine, America’s oldest general interest monthly, has lost its way in recent years — with articles suggesting that HIV does not cause AIDS, for example.  Yet, I still find myself checking out its best bang, bang presentation — the Harper’s Index.

The trick to an index is finding an authoritative source for a topic that can be explained with meaningful numbers.

Elisabeth Hagen, USDA’s under secretary for Food Safety, last spring presented the Food Safety & Inspection Agency’s 2012 budget request in testimony before Congress. In eight pages of remarks, Hagen’s testimony was chock full of factoids made for an index.

From her lengthy remarks, we’ve boiled it down to this Food Safety News Index:

2010 FSIS personnel: 9,800

In-plant personnel: 8,000

Federally inspected establishments: 6,200

Veterinarian vacancies: 7.7 percent (down 4 points)

Livestock inspected at slaughter: 147 million.

Poultry inspected at slaughter: 9 billion

Food safety/defense procedure conducted: 8 million

Poultry condemned before or after slaughter: 451 million pounds

Livestock condemned before or after slaughter: 493,000 head

Meat and poultry imports: 3.2 billion pounds

Number of importing countries: 29

Egg imports from Canada: 22.4 million pounds

States with meat and poultry inspection: 27

State and local food inspections: 5 million

Food samples tested: 400,000

Food investigations: 56,000

From time to time, when we think it would be worthwhile for all to share in a series of facts, we’ll use this space for the Food Safety News Index.