A New York Times editorial from today begins:
President Bush took a potentially useful step last week, appointing a cabinet-level committee to find ways to ensure the safety of imported food and other products. But his actions would be a lot more credible if the administration had not been cutting the staff and budget of food safety programs at the Food and Drug Administration while also planning to eliminate half of the agency’s laboratories.
Hearings before a House oversight subcommittee raised serious questions about the F.D.A.’s ability to protect the public against contaminated or adulterated foods. William Hubbard, a former top agency official who consults for a coalition of industry and consumer groups, told the committee that the F.D.A. has lost some 200 food scientists and 700 field inspectors over five years, exactly the wrong direction when food imports are skyrocketing. He also noted that the small budget increase the White House has proposed for food safety next year would be a decrease after accounting for inflation.
Details behind the potential closure of food testing laboratories and inspections of imported foods are further discussed in the editorial, which is titled: Is It Safe to Eat?
Increasing fears over foods imported from China and other countries, and the FDA’s assertions that only one percent of food imports are inspected every year are major concerns surrounding the safety of the American food supply. And it’s not just the federal government and food safety advocates who are speaking up about their issues with the safety of the American food supply. Bill Marler posted the following email he received from a client who became ill after eating E. coli-contaminated spinach on his blog recently:
Please pass this on: I am 55 years old and having been married for 37 years, so I have been grocery shopping for at least that long. I got sick from spinach; last month I opened a can of Geisha brand peaches (from China but distributed from New York) only to find a dead fly in the can; and this past week I purchased 2 cans of Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce distributed from Augusta, GA that have been recalled. Am I being paranoid or is someone out there trying to kill Americans with the food chain, or just me in particular? What’s going on here and how can we protect ourselves other than reverting back to growing our own food. I know growing up if we didn’t shoot it, reel it in or grow it, we didn’t eat it (ie; deer meat, fish (lots & lots of fish) and fresh vegetables & fruits grown by family members.) What’s going on here with the food chain is scaring the h_ _ _ out of me. Too many things happening in a very short time frame to me.