As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

They Don't Care About What You Eat

The crisis in food safety has just grown larger, and this is a slow-motion train wreck that is laying bare the failure of conservative government to fulfill any of its obligations. Now we've learned that millions of chickens were fed melamine-tainted feed, and that millions of consumers ate those chickens.

People have eaten millions of chickens that were given feed tainted with recalled pet food, federal officials said Tuesday, though they said the threat to human health is minimal.

The announcement came after an investigation of chicken farms in Indiana found that 38 of the facilities had given contaminated feed to poultry raised for human consumption, and that 2.5 million to 3 million people ate them.

The officials added that they expect to discover that chickens on possibly hundreds of farms in other states were also given tainted feed.

In a teleconference with reporters, an official with the Food and Drug Administration said no recall has been issued because "the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low."

This is of course what the FDA says now, although last week they said that no consumers ate anything tainted with melamine, and they also said it was only a couple hundred pets that have died when it was actually tens of thousands. So what will next week bring?

Well, don't worry, because there's now a food safety czar. Isn't that supposed to be the head of the FDA?

The Bush administration appointed a new "food safety czar" yesterday and directed him to develop a plan for addressing shortcomings exposed by recent scares in the human food supply.

Dr. David W.K. Acheson, a former University of Maryland medical school professor who had been chief medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration's food safety center, immediately stepped into the job.

The creation of the new position underscored the extent of public concern about the country's food safety system over a dangerous chemical found in pet food entering the human food supply, in addition to recent outbreaks of bacterial contamination in bagged spinach, Taco Bell lettuce and Peter Pan peanut butter. But Democrats said fears have intensified to a degree that a new appointment alone won't quell.

You're darn right it won't quell those fears. You hire a "czar" when you have admitted that you can't handle the problem. It's a way to place blame apart from the system itself.

Conservatives care nothing about government, and yet they act surprised when the mechanisms of government breaks down. They will somehow try to blame liberals for dismantling the public safety apparatus that has served the country well for decades. But this is an obvious conclusion to the consistent attempts to delegitimize government, drown the funding of public programs in a bathtub and staff regulatory agencies with the lobbyists for the industries they mean to regulate. I'm watching Robert Kuttner take down Bill Kristol in a conference called "The Failure of Conservatism." Bob, don't forget the food.

UPDATE: The audience didn't. A sample question from them: "Why is it that, 5 years after 9-11, the Bush Administration cannot guarantee my cat's food supply?"

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