The following appeared as part of an article in a trade magazine:
“During a recent trial period in which government inspections at selected meat-processing plants were more frequent,
the amount of bacteria in samples of processed chicken decreased by 50 percent on average from the previous year’s
level. If the government were to institute more frequent inspections, the incidence of stomach and intestinal infections
throughout the country could thus be cut in half. In the meantime, consumers of Excel Meats should be safe from
infection because Excel’s main processing plant has shown more improvement in eliminating bacterial contamination
than any other plant cited in the government report.”
Discuss how well reasoned . . . etc.
The argument that frequent visits by Governement officials could bring down the stomach infection problems by 50% and that consumers of Excel meat should be safe fails to mention several key points based on which it could be evaluated. The author makes a number of assumptions, for which there is no solid evidence. Hence, the argument is weak and unconvincing.
First, the argument does not make it clear how long the trial period continued. It is possible that when the trial was conducted, bacteria that contaminate meat are less active due to weather conditions and can infact grow and thrive when favourable conditions return. Thus, the visit of officials has no direct link with the growth of bateria, as suggested by the passage. Additionally, It is also not clear just how many plants the official visited. If they visited only a handful of plants, and the reduction in bacteria was seen across processing plants, it is quite possible that the reduction was due to some other reason and not because of these visits. Had the author provided some quantitaive data about the scope of this visits, the reasoning could have been much convincing.
Second, the author assumes that all bacteria found in processed meat infact cause stomach and intestinal infections. It is possible that some of the bacteria are essential bacterias for humas. For example, just like curd cannot be made from milk without the lactobacillus bacteria, it is possible that a few bacterias are needed by the processing plants, and they do not cause infections. Also, the declaration that 50% reduction in the number of bacteria will also cut down the number of infected people by 50% is dubious to say the least, as there is no data showing direct co relation between these numbers. Had the author provided some statistical data about how the reduction of bacteria have infact reduced the number of infected patients, this assumption would certainly have been much persuasive. Without it, however, it seems stretched.
Third, the author also says that consumers of Excel Meat should be safe. But these statement is also far fetched. Just because the main plant has shown improvement in eliminating bacteria does not mean that the meat people consume will have less bacterias. It is possible that the meat is contaminated after it gets out of the plant due to improper handling etc. Also, it may be possible that the government standards for the meat processing industry is not upto the medically accepted levels. Thus, to say that consumers would be safe is incorrect. At most, the author can claim that the consumers of Excel Meat would be safer than consumers of other plans mentioned in the government report.
In conclusion, I think the argument is very weak and the conclusions drawn are far fetched for the above reasons. The argument could have been strentgthened had the author addressed some pertinent factors like the type of bacteria reduced, the actual decrease in the number of infected people, and the percentage of plants visited by the officials. Without these information, however, the argument remains vulnerable and open to debate.
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