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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Union of Concerned Scientists find that some special interests and public officials hamper food safety

Screen shot 2010-09-15 at 6.18.23 PM.pngIf you want a disturbing read, see the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Voices of Federal Food Safety Scientists and Inspectors.” Clearly, a system that allows undue influence on those that are bound to protect the public should not be allowed.

To evaluate how well the government uses science to protect the food supply, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), working with researchers at Iowa State University, sent a 44-question survey to nearly 8,000 food safety employees at the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which together oversee our food system. More than 1,700 employees responded. The results reveal a food safety system where special interests and public officials all too often inhibit the ability of government scientists and inspectors to protect the food supply.

  • 330 respondents (27 percent) had personally experienced, either frequently or occasionally, “instances where the public health has been harmed by businesses withholding food safety information from agency investigators.” Meanwhile, 621 respondents (38 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that “public health has been harmed by agency practices that defer to business interests.”
  • 301 respondents (25 percent) had personally experienced, either frequently or occasionally, “situations where corporate interests have forced the withdrawal or significant modification of [an agency] policy or action designed to protect consumers or public health.”
  • 266 respondents (24 percent) had personally experienced, either frequently or occasionally, “situations where members of Congress have forced the withdrawal or significant modification of [an agency] policy or action designed to protect consumers or public health.”
  • 243 respondents (22 percent) had personally experienced, either frequently or occasionally, “situations where non- governmental interests (such as advocacy groups) have forced the withdrawal or significant modification of [an agency] policy or action designed to protect consumers or public health.”

When I was in both Australia and New Zealand the last week, the question I repeatedly was asked was “why were no inspectors ever in the Wright County Egg manufacturing plant?” Perhaps this new questionnaire gives us the answer?

  • Jim Schmidt

    If only we could get politics out of public health. You are referring to the Federal Level, now add on your State politicians, your County Politicians, your City/Municipal politicians. Makes things messy. Luckily for the most part you only have the political appointees at the federal and state level, those folks really can put a damper on regulation.