Beyond Salmonella: Tea Party Fights Against Food Safety Law

Tea Party activists fight to kill a food safety bill

As a national food safety bill meanders through the U.S. Senate (a key procedural hurdle was cleared last night and debate resumes this morning, reports Food Safety News) it’s interesting to take note of the politics behind the initiative.

Mother Jones offers a nice take on why Tea Party devotees would rather risk salmonella-laced eggs than allow FDA regulators greater oversight of the nation’s food supply.

The piece, “The Tea Party’s Food Fight,” begins like this:

It will turn raw-milk producers and seed collectors into criminals and crush small farms under the heel of the federal government’s “food safety Gestapo”—at least, that’s what tea party activists have been saying about a bill the Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday morning. Now that the midterm elections are over, angry grassroots activists have moved on to fight “lame duck” session legislation that they find too intrusive, expensive, or both. Their latest target is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

Driven by the recent rash of recalls—from E. coli-tainted cookie dough and spinach to peanut butter specked with salmonella—the bill would empower the Food and Drug Administration to inspect food production facilities and mandate recalls of contaminated food rather than relying on companies to recall tainted food on their own, among other things. The bipartisan bill isn’t perfect, but even foodie writer Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, has urged its passage on the grounds that it represents the “best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply.”

Yet the Tea Party Patriots, one of the nation’s largest tea party umbrella groups, sent out an email recently urging members to “melt the phones” of congressional lawmakers to oppose the bill, comparing its provisions to the “dangerous intrusions” of the Transportation Security Administration. The email circulated a critique of the legislation drafted by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the nation’s food supply. During debate on the bill earlier this month, he said, “We’ve got the safest food in the world because we have the best legal system in the world.”

CNN is streaming the Senate debate live here.

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