Most of us think that the lyrics of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is where “Naughty or Nice” lists originated. Truth is “Naughty or Nice” pre-dates the popular 1934 Christmas song that is played a million times every year.

Nice is the older of the two. Experts say it’s from the 13th Century. Its meaning was closer to stupid than pleasant or polite. It is derived from “nescius” in Latin, and evolved into “timid “or “delicate” and later “agreeable” and “kind.”

The word experts peg the origin of Naughty to a couple of centuries later and stem from the phrase “Not a whit” or “nothing at all.” Over time, it was used to mean “wicked or immoral.”

Those words with history found their way into the Christmas song first played on the Eddie Cantor radio show and was an instant hit.

Our annual Naughty or Nice list has become a Food Safety News tradition. And we continue with our Naughty or Nice selections for 2022. Oh, there’s one more thing. The Boss jumped the gun this year with a look back on the list from a previous year. He also invited readers to submit their ideas for this year.

Let’s get started!

NAUGHTY — The “F” in Food and Drug Administration was as bad as it gets this year. The “F,” according to a lengthy report in Politico, is dysfunctional, subject to infighting, and fails time and time again to meet important decision-making deadlines. The “F” hasn’t regulated irrigation water, removed toxins from baby food, or reduced-sodium in the food supply. In short, the “F,” which has jurisdiction over about 80 percent of the food Americans consume, is a hot mess.

NICE — It was Helena Bottemiller Evich, who got her start at Food Safety News, who wrote the Politico report as her swan song there as she stepped out to become an independent journalist. She left Politico after almost nine years to become the founder and editor-in-chief of Food Fix, a new online publication about food policy in Washington D.C., and beyond.

NAUGHTY — The U.S. Senate waited until the last minute before confirming by voice vote Dr. Jose Emilio Esteban as the nation’s 6th Under Secretary for Food Safety. But if the “F” in FDA is dysfunctional, so too is the U.S. Senate, which fails food safety by not carrying out its duties in a timely manner. It means the nation with an estimated 48 million food-borne illnesses and 3,000 deaths this year again and went for almost two years without anyone holding the top food safety job.

NICE — Dr. Jose Emilio Esteban, the new Under Secretary for Food Safety, demonstrated great patience in waiting for more than a year for his Senate confirmation. A nominee is put through a storm of paperwork and often required to give up outside leadership. Esteban had to get off the leadership tract of the International Association for Food Protection. Dr. Esteban, we are now in your hands!

Now some additions from our readers

NAUGHTY –– The J.M. Smucker Company and its Jif brand have earned their way on the Naughty list for behavior that the peanut butter industry should not want to re-visit. It’s linked to a multistage Salmonella Senftenberg outbreak. brought a giant recall of Jif products last spring. Jif makes the Naughty list for burying reports that might have shown it was slow to respond to plant deficiencies. And the brand masters haven’t shared warning letters it may receive from the “F.”

NICE –– Maine’s Legislature, Governor, and school kitchen staff have brought about free school lunches for all, and have taken steps to overcome those supply chain shortages so children are getting a good meal. Maine is but one example of the school lunch shake-up that’s occurring at the state level.

NAUGHTY — Readers say Amos Miller has taken more than his 15 minutes of fame. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service want to break Miller from distributing uninspected meat and poultry products around the country. Every time Miller comes close to complying, he pushes it away. His case in U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania has gone on for way too long.

NICE-– Taco Time, the fast-food restaurant chain specializing in Mexican food at 226 locations in the U.S. and Canada, for incorporating dining area hand washing sinks available to customers. The out-front utility to encourage hand-washing is an idea we can only hope others will follow.

NAUGHTY –– The “F” in FDA calls out for some names. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock are currently in command and therefore make the Naughty list for failing the FDA foods program by thinking that it can be managed like medical products.

NICE –– Corporate types don’t usually step up to address controversial topics out in the public. The Consumer Brands Association did just that when it launched its own FDA Modernization Campaign. It offered “a series of actionable, product-related policy reforms to help the agency operate at the speed of the consumer and more effectively deliver on its public health mission while facilitating industry innovation and growth.”

NAUGHTY –– The entire infant formula debacle — from an outbreak to shortages — extending into a second year, is an embossment with so much blame to go around, we can only hope there are lessons learned. With USDA’s  Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)  program purchasing so much of the product and FDA regulating formula production, one must wonder if they ever talked to one another.

NICE –– Food safety advocates include a whole mix of individuals. Families and friends of victims, foodborne illness survivors, and plainly educated consumers are among the army of advocates that we see showing up to help every year. Many of them work through Stop Foodborne Illness or STOP, the non-profit public health organization in the United States dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens.

NAUGHTY — Foodborne illness reporting is not what it could be. We are talking worldwide here and it’s a point raised by one of our readers in the United Kingdom. Epidemiological food poising reports are primarily written for doctors and the medical community, using differing terminology that is often confused. But the food industry and enforcement offices need information that can be immediately acted upon. Reports should focus on the outbreak location, the food vehicle, the causative agent, and the source. Work on that during 2023.

NICE — Mitzi Baum, Michael Hansen, Thomas Gremillion, Sara Sorscher, and others for their testimony at FSIS public meeting on Reducing Salmonella in Poultry, which occurred last Nov. 3. And kudos to FSIS for holding the session to focus on the Salmonella problem.

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