Friday, July 11, 2008

We're from the government, we're here to help smash your tomatos

During one of my inevitable arguments on government intrusion on our lives, I often hear the argument, "Well, at least you can't argue about the need for agencies like the FDA. They protect us all." Before now, I didn't really have an easy-to-understand argument (as they are precisely what is needed in arguments of this type) to put against the FDA.

This is certainly not an indictment of the idea of a Food and Drug Administration, I can see the need for oversight in tracking outbreaks such as these. My argument is against the bureaucracy that confuses, stalls, overreacts, and applies politics to health matters.

Secret Ingredient; A Puzzling Food-Done-It for the Feds
The National Restaurant Association figures the epidemic has cost the food industry $100 million, and one trade magazine has estimated that growers and distributors will lose $250 million.

"Whoopsie doodle! Our mistake. That was our bad. We're really sorry about that. So, uh... See you guys later, we've got more FDA stuff to do. Good luck with that whole... $250 million in losses thing."

It's Not Salmonella on Tomatoes....It's No Brain at the FDA
Take the ongoing saga surrounding the salmonella outbreak, where nearly 1,000 people have been sickened in 36 states. The Food and Drug Administration, in its infinite wisdom, has reassured the public about how to protect themselves. Key to that advice is what types of tomatoes to avoid, and which ones are acceptable for consumption. Sounds great, except for one small problem.

They have no idea where the salmonella originated, and, in fact, have no evidence that tainted tomatoes are the source of the salmonella at all.

The author then asks;
Failing to find an answer, what's next for the fearless FDA? Will it move on to the next haphazardly chosen food source to decimate another industry? Wouldn't be surprising.

Well lets give Chris Freind a tomato-free cookie.
The suspicion has reportedly shifted to other common ingredients of fresh salsa, which seems to be implicated in many of the cases. Jalapenos are said to be high on the list, but the FDA now understandably cautious about pronouncements has not issued any new warnings, nor has it completely backed off of the tomato advisory.

So who's suffering here?
The consumers, scared unnecessarily of the produce at their market, and the vegetables on their food.
The populous, fearing terror attacks from all angles, must now worry about the sickening ineptitude of a government agency protecting the safety of the very food we eat.
The nation, which very publicly suffers a government that can't pick its collective nose without poking the country in the eye.
The growers, who have been forced to destroy their livelihood for absolutely no reason.
The market, which suffers instability at the faltering of vegetable futures.

So what happens now? Does the government repay the growers for the crops they kept from being sold? Does the government spend more of our tax dollars solving a problem that they created?

Who cares?

They obviously don't.

Heads will not roll, because there is no accountability in government bureaucracies.
If they are forced to pay out tax dollars for their ineptitude, they will simply demand more, because they're now underfunded. (and they'll get it too)
Things will change for a short while, but we are almost guaranteed to see a similar overreaction in the future.

This embarrassing action will likely spawn demands that the FDA be "better" funded, to prevent these kinds of "oversights." More of our money will be given to them, and more bureaucrats will be hired, and further apply their broken process to the very sustenance we derive from the Earth, with the exact same results. Perhaps the FDA should get out of the food industry, and get back to denying potentially life-saving drugs to terminally ill patients.

Honestly, if you made a comic book that featured FDA-Man; he would be so evil, it would surpass the villain caricature, and become unbelievable.

Certainly, government is stranger than fiction.

"Now I'm off to burn farmers' crops, spin stories of poisonous vegetables, and take medicine from cancer patients! FDA-Man AWAY!"
ET glances skyward, and welcomes the sound of anti-aircraft fire.

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