“If we invested one tenth of the amount of time, money, and effort that we do on the war on terrorism on these food safety poisonings, we would reduce, probably by a factor of ten, the poisonings of Americans, which are in the tens of thousands every year. I would suggest in this hearing if we think of this threat in these terms, then we will respond accordingly.”
That was Congressman Jay Inslee at today’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations’ hearing on “Diminished Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of the Nation’s Food Supply?” (Itchmo has thorough coverage of the hearing.) And in fact, the situation is much worse than even Rep. Inslee describes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases each year.
I conclude my piece in The Nation by highlighting that in the six years since 9/11, ten times as many Americans have died from foodborne illness than died in the terrorist attacks. Rep. Inslee rightly points out that had Osama bin Laden been responsible for the E-Coli, melamine and other poisonings, we would do something about it, and at only a fraction of the cost of Bush’s “war on terror.”
But of course, that would require an administration that actually believes that ensuring the safety of our domestic food supply is a legitimate role of government.
I’m filling in for Frank Shiers tonight on 710-KIRO, and Ben from Itchmo will be my guest in the 11PM hour, talking about today’s food safety hearing.