Political maneuvering over funding the newly enacted food safety law–the most significant update in over seven decades–continued this week as Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), incoming chair of the subcommittee overseeing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s budget, threatened to withhold funding for implementation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), one of the key backers of the new law in the Senate,  said he thought GOP criticisms might be a bluff.  “I just can’t understand why they would do that,” Harkin told Iowa Radio Thursday.  “Here’s a food safety bill supported by consumer groups, all the business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Consumer’s League. We had 73 votes in the Senate on this bill and they don’t want to fund it?”

Kingston slammed the new food safety law and discussed GOP opposition to funding its new provisions on FOX Atlanta Wednesday.

When asked if his party intended to withhold funding for implementation he said: “I think we will.  We have a lot of concerns about the necessity of putting 18,000 food police on the streets and the kitchens of America.  The trend in food safety has been very, very favorable. I’m not sure that this kind of investment is going to give any returns that justify it.”

When the anchor pressed Kingston about the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates on the annual public health burden of foodborne illness, Kingston said the new estimates showed improvement.

“You know, those numbers are something we’re all concerned about, but if you look at where they’ve been, the number of foodborne illnesses has dropped from 325,000 to the 128,000 figure–and those are the CDC figures–so it’s been trending in the right direction.”

CDC has emphasized that the new estimates represent an improved methodology and cannot be used for assessing trends in actual foodborne illnesses in the U.S. annually.

“I’m concerned about the government overplaying their hand for political purposes,” said Kingston.  “One of the things that we know, as politicians, is poll numbers, and the poll numbers go up anytime you talk about foods safety because people, rightfully, are concerned about the food that their children eat or that their senior citizen parents eat.  We all want a safe food supply.”

“So what we politicians do, is we rattle the cage of fear and say ‘oh gosh, you better reelect us or the food you’re eating is going to be tainted,’ ” said Kingston, who also lamented that there was a political risk in opposing the funding for a politically popular bill.

“I think there is risk in everything we do … soon we will all be accused of hating clean air, clean water, senior citizens, children, education–everything else,” said Kingston.  “But, that’s just the politics of hysteria that we’re in, unfortunately.”

“We’re a country right now with a debt that’s 96 percent of the GDP.  The deficit is a trillion dollars.  We’ve got to make some serious decisions.  And if we’ve got a food supply that is 99.99 percent safe, do you really need to hire 18,000 federal bureaucrats to tell the private sector what to do?”

Ranking member on the subcommittee, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), believes the new law, which she strongly supported, is a “significant step forward for addressing the problems with our current food safety system.”

“Ensuring the safety of the American public should be a priority, and I am disappointed to hear that some of my Republican colleagues do not feel that this applies to our food supply,” said DeLauro, in an email response to Food Safety News.  “With an estimated 1 in 6 American consumers affected by a food borne illness each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and a staggering 3,000 casualties, this is a matter of life and death.  I urge my Republican colleagues to recognize the importance of protecting our food supply, and to support this new law.”

  • Rich people don’t need food safety – they can afford to buy in fancy stores. But food safety makes it harder for food processors to sell garbage. So why would the GOP WANT food safety?

  • HC

    Here it is in simpler form:
    1. Increased inspections and paperwork won’t actually detect microbial pathogens
    2. Costly risk-reduction rules (HACCP) are outdated and will stifle innovation
    3. Even if the smallest producers are exempt, S.510 will still crush tens of thousands of small and mid-sized farms
    4. By replacing the words “credible evidence” with “reason to believe,” S.510 gives the FDA power to outlaw foods based on opinion rather than science
    5. So-called “food poisoning” often comes from chicken prepared in home kitchens, but S.510 doesn’t apply to meat
    6. Produce contamination is usually caused by factory animal farms whose rivers of cow feces end up in the water supply, soils, and equipment that comes into contact with fresh produce; S.510 doesn’t address that problem
    7. Finally, it’s impossible remove all risk from life, and a car has a roughly 7,600% higher chance of killing you than eating fresh produce. S.510 imposes costly, unworkable “solutions” to the wrong problems.

  • Doc Mudd

    Well, HC, your 7 points nicely illustrate prevailing popular ignorance that cries out for protective legislation like S.510 and explains its nearly unanimous bipartisan passage.
    Your points 1-6 are silly, unfounded assumptions. They make an excellent case for instituting measures to reduce scientific illiteracy in America.
    To your point #7: Most states register motor vehicles and require basic safety equipment like functional brakes, seatbelts, etc. Federal licensing of commerical drivers enforces rules of the road to encourage sensible people to obey traffic signals, to watch their speed – to operate prudently and safely. Also frowns upon reckless, drunk or distracted driving.
    Similar oversight of our food system to assure fundamental safety features are in place and properly utilized is a no-brainer. Human nature being what it is, even food producers benefit from adult supervision to help keep the honest folks honest, just like commercial drivers.

  • marco

    1) Paperwork might not detect pathogens but it sure can help track them. If Sally Jackson had bothered to keep records, perhaps the FDA investigators could have determined which lot was contaminated so she would not have had to recall and destroy ALL her high-priced cheese.
    2) You think a risk-reduction plan is costly? How about a lawsuit? How about the moral cost of knowing food you sold put some kid on kidney dialysis?
    3) If you are so small or even mid-sized that a basic safety/hazards plan isn’t an essential part of your business plan, perhaps you shouldn’t be selling food.
    4) It’s people who give raw milk to their children, or spend money on so-called nutritional supplements, who ignore science, not the regulators.
    5) Consumers should practice safe food handling but if you think most food borne illness comes from home kitchens, you are sadly misinformed. (And the USDA regulates meat and poultry, with rules similar to those in the new FDA law.)
    6) The feces of grass-fed animals on small farms can contaminate produce just as easily as the feces of factory-farm animals can.
    7) Yes, life is risky but food borne illness is largely preventable—we don’t have to kill people with spinach, sprouts, unpasteurized dairy products, peanut butter, eggs.
    I like to buy local, but I’m not going to support farmers who care more about what safety precautions will cost them than they care about the well being of me and my family. You think Big Ag is greedy—look in the mirror, my friend!

  • It looks like Rep. Jack Kingston doesn’t know anything about the Georgia Food Safety Law, that was passed after the penats desaster: http://www.nasda.org/nasda/nasda/foundation/foodsafety/Georgia.pdf
    I don’t get his math when he says food supply is 99.99 percent safe. How can this be when I compare it with the sick and death numbers of the CDC?

  • Richard

    Food Safety We Have Already.
    It’s Called The Health Department.
    NO ON S510

  • I agree with Richard.
    NO to SB 510.
    NO to ConAg, Cargill and Monsanto!