I am trying to have a ski vacation with my family, but a good friend emailed me Noam Levey’s article – “FDA reform likely to take back seat in Obama plan” – I nearly fell off the chairlift.

"’This is an issue that will have to wait its turn,’ said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and longtime proponent of tougher food laws and a friend of President-elect Obama. Once again, bigger problems with higher profiles might shoulder aside food safety in the competition for resources.”

Senator Durbin, with all due respect, from someone who has briefed you and your staff on food safety issues, who has testified before congress, and who has supported you and the Democratic Party for years, hoping that once we threw the R’s out public health would be pushed to the front burner – let’s think this through a bit.

Poisoning people is not good for the economy.  It is bad for it.  Continuing to allow 76,000,000 of our citizens to be sickened each year (325,000 hospitalized and 5,000 deaths) costs our nation billions and billions each and every year, from the needless medical expenses, lost wages, lost productivity and lost lives.  On top of that the cost of outbreaks to business can also be steep, hundreds of millions were lost by the tomato and spinach industries because of bacterial contamination in those products.

Rethinking how our government helps protect (or not) our food supply and spending needed money on the CDC (we need more surveillance), FDA (we need more inspectors domestically and abroad) and the USDA and FSIS (they need a new focus), are cheap investments for the public (both individual and business) good. There is always an excuse for doing what is unnecessary.  However, with respect to food safety it is necessary.  the time is over for excuses, we voted for change and we deserve it.

  • Bix

    That’s odd. Durbin has been a cheerleader for food safety. I wonder what happened to make him change his perspective.

  • I was afraid of something like this. As I pointed out on the weekend, food safety has no spokesperson at the Cabinet table.
    The first step in reinvigorating and improving our food safety net is to define what needs to be done and how it should best be done. That front-end study will not require mega-bucks, but will take time and careful thought. We need to learn from the successes and errors of other countries (UK, Canada, etc.)
    Clinton/Gore showed how the problem could be approached. We need a Food Safety Czar with a mandate to develop a comprehensive food safety strategy and with the clout to push the program through.