For thirty years we have been told that federal agencies are too intrusive, and that business and industry suffer from regulation.
Left to self-regulate, we are always told, industry will flourish, business will boom, employment opportunities will grow throughout the land, profits will soar, salaries will increase, and the streets of gold will run with milk and honey.
OK, maybe not the last bit about the milk and honey, but all the other things have been promised for thirty years as supply-side theory has been the guiding light of our economic system.
Ronald Reagan, the poster boy for supply-side economic theory, started the gutting process by appointing not scientists, analysts, professors, or researchers to head regulatory agencies, but CEOs who were being regulated by the agencies they now headed. If the supply-siders couldn't out-right shutter the regulatory agency, they would do the next best thing: hand control of the hen house to the foxes.
During the same time, we have slashed the budgets and staffing for most regulatory agencies, and now Congress is simply trying to take all power away from them so their mere existence is a meaningless waste of money.
One drawback to less effective regulation is the danger of poisons being introduced into the marketplace, for sale to consumers.
This past August, we learned that 36 million pounds of ground turkey was tainted with
salmonella. (See, Getting Out Of The Way Of Business
Now this week, we are being told that cantaloupes from Jensen Farm, in Colorado tainted with listeria. So far, it has caused at least 72 illnesses and 16 deaths in 18 states.
How does something like this happen in America in the 21st Century?
One way to facilitate it, and ensure it happens again in the future, is to limit funding for the Food & Drug Administration, reduce the Agency's staff, and put it under the control of a CEO form the food industry.
Conveniently, that is what we have done.
So, two months ago it was poisonous turkey, this month it's killer cantaloupes. What will it be for Christmas?
Listeriosis is a serious illness, and the disease may manifest as meningitis, or affect newborns due to its ability to penetrate the endothelial layer of the placenta. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil, and animals can also be carriers. Listeria has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, fruit such as cantaloupes, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods. Pasteurization and sufficient cooking kill listeria; however, contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging. For example, meat-processing plants producing ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs and deli meats, must follow extensive sanitation policies and procedures to prevent listeria contamination.
See, Listeria monocytogenes, Wikipedia
A spokeswoman for Jensen Farms said the company's product is often sold and resold, so they do not always know where it ends up.
"If it's not Jensen Farms, it's OK to eat," said Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centres for Disease Control. "But if you can't confirm it's not Jensen Farms, then it's best to throw it out."
The recalled cantaloupes may be labelled "Colorado Grown," "Distributed by Frontera Produce," "Jensenfarms.com" or "Sweet Rocky Fords" but not every recalled cantaloupe is labelled with a sticker, the US Food and Drug Administration said. The company said it shipped out more than 300,000 cases of cantaloupes that contained five to 15 melons each, meaning the recall involved 1.5m to 4.5m pieces of fruit.
Listeria outbreak expected to cause more deaths across US in coming weeks
Our food supply is more unreliable every year that we live in the current economic and political climate; a climate that says government is bad and deregulation is our only hope for the future. As we continue down this path of folly, outbreaks like this will become more commonplace; and (like the spread of AIDS) nothing will be done until people of privilege start dying from it.
I ate some cantaloupe Tuesday night, and I am still alive. I will not have any more cantaloupe any time soon.