Alan Frost, one of our most alert readers, responded to a story I wrote this week on the possible return of horse slaughter for human food in the U.S. by pointing out “the subject of food safety does not appear the 21st paragraph (and there is no 22nd paragraph.)”

Mr. Frost made a good point. We need to stay on subject here, and the subject is food safety.

About five years ago when Congress was trying to shut down the last three horse slaughterhouses for human food in the U.S., it withdrew funding for the required USDA inspectors. The Belgium owners wanted to pay USDA to keep the inspection, but the closures followed instead.

If through state action, a horse slaughter operation starts up again in the U.S. for either domestic or export food for humans, there are going to be food safety issues we will want to explore. The story we wrote this past week was to note the interest of several states in the subject, the horse population problem, and the rough anniversary of the end of horse slaughter in the U.S.

Beyond that there are myriad issues around horse slaughter that flare passion from both sides and we’d prefer that if you have further interest in the subject you go someplace else.  For us to do more is just too much of a reach from our primary mission and, thankfully, Mr. Frost is watching to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Likewise in February 2010, we published one of those “fair and balanced” stories looking at whether or not the oil and natural gas industry’s practice of “fracking” to unlocked deep deposits is responsible for well water pollution on the surface.

We’ve passed on other “fracking” stories just because the food safety angle is pretty thin.   This is another one where the propaganda campaigns on both sides can swallow you up.  There is no shortage of places to go to fulfill your “fracking” needs, but it need not be here.

I’ve written here before about our approach to subjects like organic and genetically modified (GM) foods. We strive to bring you major developments in these areas and we emphasize whatever can be said about food safety.   

I’ve also done my share of complaining about how much, especially when it comes to GM crops, involve “process” not “settled science.” It’s pretty much unavoidable, but it does not mean I cannot keep complaining.

Horse slaughter, fracking, GM crops are just examples of the kinds of subjects we will get into and hopefully out of quickly to let you know we are on top of things, but we are not going to stray very far from our pathogens.

The food safety menu is a long one including such items as additives, apple juice arsenic, bisphenol A, child nutrition, nanotechnology, pesticides, poultry litter, Round Up ready and veal calves. But if we treat everything as an entree, we are going to lose focus and we are not going to let that happen.

If we do, I hope Mr.Frost and other readers will speak up. We have thick skins and always do appreciate genuine comments on the content we should or should not  be including.   

Another reason we have to draw the line so we know where food safety topics begin and end is that we have had so much to focus on that is right down our centerline.

Who could have imagined that 2011 would see a pathogenic E. coli strain that was previously unknown outside of a few laboratories and the first Listeria contamination of cantaloupes both causing deadly and costly outbreaks?

Both Europe’s E. coli O104:H4 outbreak and the 26-state Listeria outbreak in the U.S. generated enough mystery that we will be reporting on them for some time to come.  I was surprised at how much new there was in “Profile of Germany’s Catastrophic ‘Sproutbreak'” by Mary Rothschild, which we published last Friday.

We’ll eventually publish how Listeria went from lunchmeat and soft Mexican cheese to cantaloupes that were grown without problems since the 1880s.

That will be as soon as somebody a lot smarter than we are figures it out.