Thursday, August 04, 2011


Under terms of the legislation raising the debt ceiling, discretionary spending will be cut $2.0-$2.5 trillion over the next ten years. Two of the vulnerable areas are food safety program and scientific research. A report from the Associated Press demonstrates the importance of these two areas of federal spending:

Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of turkey after a government hunt for the source of a salmonella outbreak that has killed one person in California and sickened dozens more.

The Agriculture Department and the Minnesota-based company announced Wednesday evening that Cargill is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., plant from Feb. 20 through Aug. 2 due to possible contamination from the strain of salmonella linked to 76 illnesses and the one death.

Illnesses in the outbreak date back to March and have been reported in 26 states coast to coast. Both the Agriculture Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still working to identify the source. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department has warned consumers to properly cook ground turkey.

Just before the recall announcement Wednesday, CDC epidemiologist Christopher Braden said he thought health authorities were closing in on the suspect. He said some leftover turkey in a package at a victim's house was confirmed to contain the strain of salmonella linked to the outbreak.

President Obama now has nominated David Barlow, legal advisor to Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), to be next U.S. Attorney for Utah. As the Center for American Progress notes, Barlow's legal philosophy is unknown but hopefully it differs sharply from the freshman Utah Senator, who was nominated with tea party support after defeating incumbent Bob Bennett. Narrowly interpreting the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, Lee opposes child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, Medicare, Social Security- and food safety laws.

Lee specifically cited poverty and food safety as two issues which can be addressed by state governments but not by the federal government. The question arises: what state would by itself, be able to combat a salmonella outbreak? Would it be Minnesota, in which Cargill is located; Arkansas, where the outbreak probably occurred; California, in which an individual already has died; or in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin, in which illnesses already have been reported?

None. Food-borne illnesses are rude; refusing to confine themselves to one state, they insist on being mobile, moving from state to state. Forty-nine of our states are required to maintain balance in the operational portion of their budget and few of them are going to spare from the ax programs needed to maintain the health of their citizens. And with the Republican war on science, scientific research is not going to receive the highest priority, one of only many casualties of the debt reduction deal.

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