De-Funding the New Food Safety Law

June 30th, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on De-Funding the New Food Safety Law

The new Food Safety Law, which passed in the previous Congress with bipartisan support, and is considered the most significant and important overhaul of our food safety system in over 70 years, took a huge hit earlier this month. The current GOP led House of Representatives essentially de-funded the bill. The $750 million allotment to the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Program — $87 million less than what the agency now gets for food safety — won’t be enough to put the new law into place. $35 million was also cut from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety and inspection service, which oversees meat and poultry plants.

To be clear, this is not budget fat. Food safety is an essential government function. The new chairman of the subcommittee that wrote the appropriations bill claimed the spending cuts were fine because big fast food chains, grocery stores and food producers police themselves, if only to avoid getting sued. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, declared that the nation’s food supply is “99.99 percent safe.” Percentages can be very misleading, even if that statistic is true. Try this number on – about 48 million, or one in six, Americans get sick each year from tainted food, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to federal figures. It just makes sense that with tighter safety laws and regulations we could actually save money – certainly on the health care end.

And just to put it all in perspective, House GOP leader Eric Cantor walked out of budget negotiation talks last week as dialogue heated up about eliminating corporate jet rides as a tax deduction. So… it’s perfectly acceptable to go to the mat for wealthy business owners and their corporate jets, but not so much for the rest of us who may get sick from unsafe food.

This is wrong . . . terribly wrong.