Friday, June 13, 2008

Tomato Safety Only The Latest Product Safety Crisis For The Bush Administration

The potentionally fatal salmonella outbreak among some types of tomatoes that has sickened hundreds and left some hospitalized across the U.S. is only the latest consumer product safety crisis to hit the nation since the Bush Administration has sought to weaken consumer product safety and protections. The Bush Administration has most often appointed former lobbyists or executives of various industry groups to head consumer safety positions and posts, or sought to weaken product safety or consumer protection in many areas to cut regulation costs for some business groups, espicially those with strong lobby efforts or that were large political donation contributors.

The latest public health crisis with tomatoes has been complicated by agriculture industry lobbyists who opposed mandatory point of origin food labels on products like tomatoes, instead relying on a sometimes voluntary sticker labeling of some tomatoes. All of this has greatly complicated the Bush Administration's proindustry and consumer safety weakend FDA to find the specific farm, brand or nation from which the salmonella contaminated tomatoes originated. In fact, the FDA now claims that it may never know the source of the contaminated tomatoes, because the important consumer safety agency has become so weakened during the Bush years. Many important consumer safety agencies can now be better characterized as advocates for industry than for the safety of the consumer during the Bush Administration years.

And unfortunately this is not the first time that American consumers have been injured or killed during the Bush Administration agenda of weakening product inspections, safety or consumer protections. The federal CPSC has but one toy safety inspector for the entire nation, which has contributed to lead contaminated paint problems with some imported toys. Thousands of consumers have sent reports to the CPSC that they were either injured or sometimes killed by some unsafe products, however the Bush Administration appointed, Nancy Nord, a former executive of the Eastman Kodak Company, one of the nation's very worst corporate polluters, to head the CPSC, and under Nord's leadership, few consumer complaint's of product injuries are investigated or followed up. Nord has had a long record of undermining consumer safety regulations both as a corporate attorney and as a lobbyist or spokesperson for some of the nation's worst corporate polluter industry groups and as the Director For Consumer Affairs for the antiregulation U.S. Chamber Of Commerce.

Last year, there were many deaths of pets due to contaminated pet food that contained a plastic-type additive that originated from some Chinese producers. And there were other serious health problems when E coli contaminated lettuce and spinach sickened many Americans across the nation. In fact, during the Bush Administration years, far more Americans have been sickened, injured or killed by unsafe products and bacteria contaminated food than during the administration of any president in recent history since consumer safety and product protections became an important government priority.

The Bush Administration has concerned itself with cutting government regulations and the thin line of safety that keeps the American food supply safe. The result has been a harvest of consumer injuries and deaths.


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