Jonathan Rockoff of The Baltimore Sun pushed CDC hard on an issue we have been preaching: transparency. He kept asking the same question we asked here. Would the CDC post on its web site not just vague ranges such as “illnesses began between April 10 and June 13, 2008,” but instead release quantities that became ill on each day?
This is non-confidential information and would allow epidemiologists outside of the CDC to make their own judgments. Dr. Patricia Griffin, CDC’s Chief of the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, could come up with no reason not to do this except for repeating again and again that the data isn’t complete.
Of course, reviewing incomplete data is what everyone at CDC and FDA do every outbreak — it is just arrogance that makes Dr. Griffin think nobody else can be trusted to read incomplete data.
CDC and FDA are so backwards. The whole world is changing. Take a project such as Wikipedia, in which the collective knowledge of all the people who wish to contribute has created a pretty darn good encyclopedia — for free!
If these organizations were sincere about solving food safety outbreaks, they would make all non-confidential information public as soon as possible — then let the intelligence of the world pitch in to solve the riddle — at no cost to the government.
Instead, fearful of their prerogatives they try to hold back information and thus leave themselves alone to solve difficult problems.