Agriculture & Food Safety (February 2010)

Congress must stop EPA’s vast overreach

Everyone involved in agriculture is worrying about a lot these days. In addition to delayed planting and harvesting in many parts of the country, weather-related disasters, fluctuating commodity prices and stalled trade opportunities, agriculture is also trying to come to grips with the unwarranted, aggressive regulation being proposed by the Obama administration.

Americans deserve a level playing field

During the State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama set a goal of doubling exports within five years, and noted how important trade is to job growth and business investment. The president specifically cited Colombia, South Korea and Panama, three countries with whom the previous administration negotiated trade agreements — agreements that have been awaiting Congressional approval ever since. 

How to overhaul the bureaucracy

Day in and day out, protecting American families from unsafe and contaminated foods remains a primary responsibility of this government, and it is a full-time job.  Case in point: Just last week, we saw the Huntington Meat Packing Co. recall close to 5 million pounds of unsafe beef and veal, almost a full year after it had first gone to market. As it turns out, that was the seventh major meat recall of 2010. We had already seen, for example, over 1.2 million pounds of unsafe sausage recalled on account of salmonella, and 864,000 pounds of meat, on the market since 2008, potentially infected with E. coli. 

Legislation protects consumers without hurting businesses

These days it seems like we can’t go more than a couple of weeks without reading headlines of yet another food-borne illness outbreak. Most recently, it was salmonella linked to pepper-coated salami sold under various brand names and at major grocery stores across the country.  As of Feb. 15, 230 people were reported sick in 45 states. Perhaps the most frightening part of it all is that we still do not know if the contamination came from the meat or the pepper. These were not products from a small producer or sold in a mom-and-pop shop —this meat was processed and sold by major corporations, and we still do not have a way to trace the source of the contamination.  

Confronting health threats

Federal, state and local agencies today share enormous responsibility for making the U.S. food supply one of the safest in the world. Yet, an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths are caused by food-borne diseases in the United States each year.  Over the past couple of years, there has been heightened scrutiny of the U.S. food safety system with E. coli outbreaks in spinach and lettuce and salmonella outbreaks in peppers, pistachios, peanut butter and other products containing peanut ingredients.