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Pelosi Slams GOP on Food Safety: ‘This is the E. coli club’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sharply criticized Republicans for not supporting food safety funding at a voters forum in Florida on Monday. The former House Speaker called Republicans “the E. coli club” for their tendency toward limited government.

The comments come as Congress slowly advances an appropriations bill that, many consumer and regulatory advocates believe, does not adequately fund the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over 80 percent of the food supply and is charged now with implementing a more preventative food safety system, outlined by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that FSMA would cost around $1.4 billion over five years to implement the sweeping new law as Congress intended, but last year FDA got a modest $50 increase and next year’s funding is still up in the air. The House version would cut FDA’s budget, though food safety funding would remain relatively flat.

“Bless their hearts they act upon their beliefs. It’s an ideology: We shouldn’t have a government role,” said Pelosi at a voters forum for congressional candidate Lois Frankel, the former mayor of West Palm Beach. “So reduce the police, the fire, the teachers, reduce the role. Give tax cuts to the high end, that will stimulate the economy and everything will be good.”

“I say to them: Do you have children who breathe the air? Do you have grandchildren who drink water? I’m a mom, I have five kids,” continued Pelosi, who now has several grandkids. “As a mom, I was vigilant about food safety, right moms? If you could depend on the government for one thing, it was that you had to trust the water that they drank and the food they ate.”

“But this is the E. coli club. They do not want to spend money to do that,” said Pelosi.

Because of the fierce debate over the role of government and growing deficits, the budget process is extremely contentious right now, with FDA among many agency caught up in the controversy.

In a recent update on the appropriations process, the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a coalition of industry, consumer, and public health groups, the group noted that while FDA is better funded than it used to be (they call the agency chronically starved for resources to meet its growing responsibilities), “the agency is still underfunded.”

Adding to the challenge of boosting FDA funding is the threat of sequestration — deep, automatic cuts to discretionary spending that may happen in 2013 since a “supercommittee” failed to come up with a spending reduction plan after the debt ceiling deal last that was struck last sumer.

A sequestration could be devastating for FDA’s budget. As the Alliance’s executive director Stephen Grossman recently explained, “It is clear that sequestration would mean FDA cannot do nearly as much in FY 13 as it did in FY 12, probably a lot less.”

“Most functions of the agency will have less money to work with — suggesting food will be less safe, drugs and devices will get slower reviews, and fewer people will be available to beef up the urgent gap in import safety,” added Grossman.

In a later update, Grossman says the Alliance hopes such cuts will be avoided because they would “threaten the public health and will ultimately cost more than the savings.”

© Food Safety News
  • Nathan

    Just another reason friends of food safety don’t let their friends vote Republican. Thank you Nancy and Obama!

  • Mark

    Pelosi has no idea what food safety is. The FDA allows all manner of hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and genetically spliced mutations into our grocery stores. Chlorine in municipal water. Is that is what you consider safe?
    Take responsibility for your food. Research the farms that supply your food and research your water sources. Or you can get out of the polluted cities and raise and grow your own food like my family. We know EXACTLY what is in our meat and produce. Ironically, The Food Safety Modernization Act will force my little farm to submit to government inspection. I guess they want to “protect” me from myself. Can’t have a family providing for themselves and not buying from BigAgriBusiness.

  • Vene

    Yes, Mark, it’s totally reasonable to expect everybody to just leave the cities and become farmers. That will totally work in an industrialized nation of over 300 million people. You’re an idiot. And for all the flaws with the FDA, at least they attempt to make decisions based on science and empirical research instead of uneducated scaremongering.

  • MicroNerd

    Mark, I’m pretty sure that you have no idea what’s in your food. Do you know what you feed your animals? Sure. Unless you are a super hero, I’m pretty sure you can’t see things on the microscopic level. If your cow brushes her tail on some poop, then flicks that tail onto her udders, that teeny tiny bit of fecal matter can make its way into your milk or meat and then your family has e.coli to deal with. Why is it that inspections have to be seen as a “out to get” the small farmer? Some of us just want to keep people safe.

  • http://sensiblesafeguards.org Sensible Safeguards

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevent, 1 in 6 Americans suffers from foodborne illnesses and 3,000 die each year. Although President Obama signed the Food Modernization Act more than a year ago, his administration has delayed releasing draft rules for the key provisions of the act. Now Republican lawmakers are erecting another obstacle to improving food safety by not adequately funding implementation of the Food Safety Implementation Act. As the nation waits, Americans continue to get sick and die from foodborne pathogens.For more information, see: http://www.sensiblesafeguards.org/food-safety and http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/pressroomredirect.cfm?ID=3641

  • Minkpuppy

    Get all the politicians out of food safety regulations. I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican or a member of the Conch Republic. They do nothing but obstruct much needed progress and rush to put poorly designed regulations in place.
    It’s getting harder and harder to enforce regulations because they keep adding more without cleaning up the obsolete rules. Food processors and Inspectors are confused because of it. I’m ready to defect to a damn island somewhere and leave you all to the wolves. This country has lost it’s collective mind.

  • Paul F Schwarz

    Jensen Farms had a so-called ‘inspection’. The ‘inspector’ gave them a 96% passing grade in July of 2011. We all know what started happening in August 2011 don’t we! The worst food borne illness outbreak in 100 years that is what happened. Mark and Minkpuppy obviously don’t know what they are talking about.
    My father passed away on December 18, 2011. He became ill with flu like symptoms on the week of the 11th of September. On the morning of the 19th dad couldn’t move his legs and was transported to the hospital via ambulance never to set foot in his home again! I watched this WW ll veteran’s health go down hill under his death. On the night of his death I had to tell his wife of 68 plus years that her loving husband had died. My mother, my siblings and I miss my father every day and will continue to do so until I leave this earth.
    The should be no question but to fully fund the FDA to ensure food safety. This is a national security issue!
    Paul A Schwarz
    December 18, 2011
    Section 51 Row 1 Grave 3 Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth National Cemetery