The Obama administration has terminated the Microbiological Data Program created under President George W. Bush and his 2001 Food Safety Initiative.
During its run, MDP conducted 80 percent of all federal produce testing for pathogens like Salmonella and Listeria. They conducted tests on thousands of samples of fruits and
vegetables each year, gathered from 11 distribution centers.
The group was officially shut down on December 31st but had been winding down since November. The Obama administration had asked Congress to eliminate funding for it and the Republican Congress, stunned there was something they could stop funding, dutifully complied.
In Science Left Behind, I noted a similar event with corn-based spoons in the Congressional cafeteria. In 2007, Democratics who were now in the majority decided to make America green by starting with the Congressional cafeteria. They replaced plastic spoons with corn-based ones because those were compost-able. All well and good, except the spoons melted in soup and the knives broke easily. Hurried staffers trying to eat had to use multiple utensils to get through a meal while the refuse turned out to be not so compost-able after all. They had to be delivered to a special pulper in giant, emissions belching trucks where they were then processed and then shipped to Virginia in giant, emission-belching trucks. Costs were high and emissions reductions nonexistent.
It was such a boondoggle that they wanted to cut it, but it looks bad for Democrats to cut environmental programs, even their own, self-created, feel-good fallacy kind, so when they lost control of Congress in 2010, the outgoing Democratic head of the House Administration, Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, suggested that the incoming Republican one, Rep. Dan Lungren of California, kill the program. Lungren saw it was expensive and annoyed people and did nothing for the environment and canceled it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi immediately declared Republicans hated the environment. Rep. Mike Honda even said Republicans were causing cancer.
No, really. And people fell for it.
As I have said before, it is not that Republicans are more anti-science than Democrats, or care less about the environment, they simply suck at public relations. They have shown it again.
Here we have a food program created by a Republican president to test food for safety - which every person in America cares about - and a Democratic president, lobbied by produce companies, decided to cancel it and a Republican Congress agreed because it will save a few million dollars. Who is going to get yelled at for that? The Republicans. The Obama administration rationale was that the group was under the Agricultural Marketing Service section of the USDA and food safety wasn't their mission. Produce company lobbyists said by the time the USDA got the testing results, the food was already eaten anyway so the testing did no good - which is the kind of argument that lobbyists can make with a straight face when they are writing campaign donation checks. Will the Food and Drug Administration pick up the slack? Not possible, says an analysis by Food Safety News.
Perhaps, said the New York Times a year ago, the Food Safety Modernization Act from 2010 can fill the testing void this cut creates. Except it was signed 2 years ago, inexplicably using 15 pens, and still has not been implemented.
This seems a lot like the Constellation debacle. President Obama got into office and immediately canceled that 2004 Bush space program and replaced it with one that had his name on it - even though a Democratic Congress had just chopped $550 million out of the NASA budget so the money to fund it was suspect. I suggested at the time that aerospace employees lobby to name the launch vehicle a 'Baracket' to keep their job security.
Don't worry about unemployment numbers going up due to this food testing cut, these are federal workers, the only segment of the American economy that is growing. All of the MDP employees have been transferred elsewhere.
But watch out for that E. coli.
Federal Microbiological Data Program For Food Testing Shut Down