Let them eat contaminated turkey!

Posted by Christine, August 6, 2011

The Sacramento Bee examines the issues:

Less than two months ago, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia went on the House floor and downplayed the fact that 48 million Americans contract foodborne illnesses every year.

Kingston, a Republican who oversees the budgets of the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noted that the number of food poisoning cases each year is just one-tenth of 1 percent of the 340 billion meals consumed annually by U.S. residents.

“Something’s working without the FDA and without the USDA and without the nanny state saying, ‘We are in charge of everything,’ ” Kingston said as he and his colleagues cut federal funding for food safety.

Congressmen such as Kingston are not directly responsible for deadly food poisonings such as the outbreak that killed a Sacramento County resident and resulted in a recall of 36 million pounds of turkey products on Thursday.

Even if the United States had the strongest food-safety system imaginable, occasional outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli would be inevitable.

Yet by minimizing the threat posed by foodborne illnesses – and by failing to recognize the essential role government must play in ensuring food safety and responding to outbreaks of contamination – legislators such as Kingston make the toll higher than it needs to be.