The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


44 The Obama Presidency

Obama Seeks to Improve Food Safety

By Dan Eggen
President Obama announced new leadership and other changes today aimed at improving the safety of the U.S. food supply, declaring that shortcomings during the Bush administration created a "hazard to public health" that is "unacceptable."

In his weekly address to the nation, Obama said he is creating a "Food Safety Working Group" to recommend ways to "upgrade our food safety laws for the 21st century." The Agriculture Department is also moving ahead with a rule that stalled during the Bush administration to ban all diseased cattle from entering the food supply.

In addition, Obama formally announced the appointment of former New York City health chief Margaret Hamburg to be his Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Baltimore health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein will serve as Hamburg's deputy.

"There are certain things only a government can do," Obama says in the address. "And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and do not cause us harm."

The announcements illustrate another shift in direction under Obama from the policies of the administration of President George W. Bush, which came under attack from Democrats for allegedly ignoring worsening food safety problems and politicizing the work of the FDA. The changes also follow a series of high-profile and fatal outbreaks, including peanut products contaminated with salmonella that led to nine deaths in recent months.

Obama says in his address that the FDA was "underfunded and understaffed" during the Bush administration and that outbreaks from contaminated food have risen to 350 a year compared to 100 a year in the early 1990s. He also says approximately 95 percent of the nation's 150,000 food processing plants go without inspections each year.
Obama has proposed an extra $1 billion in his 2010 budget for more inspectors, improved laboratories and other improvements at FDA.

The president also highlighted his status as a parent in talking about food safety. "When I heard peanut products were being contaminated earlier this year, I immediately thought about my 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, who has peanut butter sandwiches probably three times a week," Obama says in his address. "No parent should have to worry that their child is going to get sick from their lunch."

Consumer groups, food-safety advocates, patients' organizations and others have praised the appointments of Hamburg and Sharfstein to oversee the FDA, which has struggled to retain public confidence in recent years. The FDA is charged with overseeing the safety of most foods, medical devices and prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The issue of disabled or "downer" cows has stirred controversy. The use of such cattle was banned from the U.S. food supply in January 2004 after the discovery of the first U.S. case of "mad cow disease." But the Bush administration allowed an exception for some cases in which animals were examined by an Agriculture Department veterinarian.
Although the Agriculture Department announced last year that it would move to close the loophole, the current administration says the final rule was never implemented.

Posted at 6:00 AM ET on Mar 14, 2009  | Category:  44 The Obama Presidency
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Too bad you didn't answer the question.

Posted by: JakeD | March 16, 2009 1:45 AM

I believe food safety would be good. watch sexy and funny videos at

Posted by: roverfind | March 16, 2009 12:38 AM

Even the local rednecks now concede that it's not safe to eat the fish from Houston's Galveston Bay Complex, due to unacceptable levels of PCBs and dioxins. Thank you to the dimwits who supported fat cat politicians who refused to stand up to fat cat polluters. Now the beautiful memories I have of fishing with my father will not be something my own children get to experience with me. It is now abundantly clear that REPUBLICANS ABSOLUTELY HATE AMERICA, and, God forgive me, I hate them for what they have done to it.

Posted by: rooster54 | March 15, 2009 3:48 PM

Quoting egrib:
Food Safety?????? Doesn't the President of the United States have anything better to worry about that crap like this? He's leading us into a depression!!!! What an IDIOT!!!!!

You are the idiot. Do you have any idea what it costs the taxpayers for an outbreak from foodborne illness? Or do you suppose everyone who gets sick from salmonella has a gold-plated insurance policy? An Ohio study of the recent salmonella outbreak estimated the public cost for each case at $4800.00 in that state. Making food safer and educating people about safely preparing food is cost effective.

Posted by: reddirtgirl | March 15, 2009 3:41 PM

If'n you kin eat it an it don't kill ya in a year than it must be good fer ya. yup that's the way we uns was raised up.
Don't need nobody to tell me if my catfish got mercury in it. Why lookee at all them people gets killed every year in automoblies. If'n monsanto says it's good than you kin take it to the bank.

Posted by: seemstome | March 15, 2009 2:48 PM


Here are the links you requested:

"Tillage and Compost Affect Yield of Corn, Soybean, and Wheat and Soil Fertility"
This report documents yields near Ames Iowa where farm composted swine manure is used as soil amendment with cover crop in rotation on conventional farms. It concludes: "Corn and soybean producers can enhance yield with multiple compost applications and eliminate yield differences between conventional and no-till systems."

Also see:
This is not a mom and pop organic farm.
Earthbound Farm was bought out in October
2008 on a leveraged buyout of 185 million.

The link to this blog is also interesting:

Bill Marler is an attorney who has litigated food poisoning cases since 1993

Happy reading!

Posted by: JohnQuimby | March 15, 2009 12:42 PM

Hey where's my comment?

The voice and point of view from a 5 generation family farm may be of interest to others.
I happen to know all about manure and do think the dower cow/Creekstone lawsuit is relevant to this discussion.


Posted by: grannymiller | March 15, 2009 11:44 AM


Too bad you never came back to this thread. Your post was the best one by far.

Posted by: JakeD | March 15, 2009 9:56 AM


Name ONE monocrop agriculture commercial grower (not your mom and pop organic outfits) that relies on composting.

Posted by: JakeD | March 15, 2009 9:43 AM


My reasoning is not faulty, but let's see if YOU can answer a simple question (keep in mind that more people are killed every year in car accidents than from tainted food): is The One going to outlaw the automobile too?

Posted by: JakeD | March 15, 2009 9:38 AM

If food safety doesn't concern Bush voters it's because they are what they eat.
Their substandard diets have affected their intelligence and reasoning.
Their judgment was no longer to be trusted and they were put somewhere where they were not a danger to themselves or others.
In other words, political limbo or where they are right now.
When they start their nattering we must stop our ears. It's for their own good.

Posted by: seemstome | March 15, 2009 7:01 AM


Why do you feign concern when your hidden agenda is to promote the Republican Dodo failures Hucksterbee who believe in creationism?

The end credits of your stoopid video tell all, "Lawless Productions."

Stoopid Republican Dodos never learn. Their extinction is at hand.

Posted by: kevinschmidt | March 14, 2009 11:31 PM

I dont know, If Obama doesnt get on the ball with the economy the GOP will be there to take back some power., the GOP faithful are already rolling out theyre nominees for 2012. here the link

Posted by: crimesw1 | March 14, 2009 10:32 PM

If you want safe food, then eat only raw organic food. Once you have left the organic produce section of the store, with few exceptions, you have left the food section of the store.

Posted by: kevinschmidt | March 14, 2009 9:36 PM

Just FYI -

If you want to know about farmscale compost, you can browse "on farm composting".

You can also follow a link to the California Integrated Waste Management page on organic materials management for farms.

Most of us are no longer connected to our food supply. The story books we read our children about small mixed farms do not reflect the truth about today's global monocrop agriculture - or where your next meal comes from.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | March 14, 2009 8:45 PM

jakeD said, "Commercial growers don't compost."

You're mistaken JakeD.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | March 14, 2009 8:18 PM

Food Safety?????? Doesn't the President of the United States have anything better to worry about that crap like this? He's leading us into a depression!!!! What an IDIOT!!!!!

Posted by: egrib | March 14, 2009 4:59 PM

This is one of the stupidest comments of all.

The need for food, preferably safe food, is pretty basic. So is the need for air and water. Yet so-called conservatives balk at any efforts to protect these vital necessities, preferring instead to protect the undeserved wealth of the priveledged predatory class, who think they have a God given right to destroy everyone else's in order to hoard what they think is their own.

Also Obama didn't lead us into a depression. Unchecked avarice, brought to you by G.O.P. et al, is accomplishing that......again.

Posted by: rooster54 | March 14, 2009 7:29 PM

Perhaps the posters critical of improvements in food safety would care to eat a peanut snack manufactured with peanut paste processed by the Peanut Corporation of America, the symbol of BushCo's approach to food safety. Bon appetit!

Posted by: solsticebelle | March 14, 2009 7:25 PM

That George Bush, every problem known to mankind was caused by George Bush. A strong President with character would not have to blame someone else--only a weak one-termer. Have you ever seen a President approaching 100 days in office and the buck still does not stop with him--it belongs to the past. Oh, woe is me.

Posted by: Mindboggle | March 14, 2009 7:18 PM

Anyone else want to actually discuss the FDA?

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 7:11 PM

As we look around on this fine spring day, we see every structure and pillar of America in what amounts to a giant pile of rubble.

The financial structure, the political structure, the moral structure.

The Republicans succeeded in destroying it all. Let it NEVER be forgotten that it was the years of unfettered Republican Rule that brought us here, that destroyed America to this extent. NEVER.

When we remember 9/11 and the pile of rubble that resulted from it, both real and metaphorical, let us remember in the same mental breath the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6th: bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US. And George Bush's reply to it. "Ok, you have covered your ass." He was you see, on vacation.

Typical. In fact.....definitional.

Posted by: losthorizon10 | March 14, 2009 6:55 PM

Obama is a total failure. His treasury dept is a mess. His foriegn policy is pathetic with Hillary using a repainted " STAPLES" EASY Button to reset relations with Russia. Yeah that worked. Russia is sending Bombers to Venezuela now. Obama wants to totally change American healtcare while he can't even hire a Surgeon General. Joe Biden said only 5% of the Taliban are extremists. HELLO. Obama is changing the terminology used for Enemy Combatants. His new terminology will be " Constituents".

Posted by: dencal26 | March 14, 2009 6:52 PM


Commercial growers don't compost.

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 6:44 PM

As a certified organic grower I can tell you that the standards for producing and marketing crops is much higher for organics than they are for conventional growers.

My business books and records, my farm buildings and equipment, my fields and livestock are inspected annually. The application of any fertilizer or pest controls must be documented and I have to prove that all products used are in accord with organic standards.

I even have to measure and record the temperature of my compost piles and comply with specific rules for compost production and application on edible crops.

Bottom line: I can't sell organic produce if I don't pass inspection.

Why can't we hold all producers to that standard?

It turns out that profit isn't even a rational motive to resist this change since certified organic production is more profitable.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | March 14, 2009 6:18 PM

If someone would just ban ALL inorganic phosphates I'd be 'happy'. For a while.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | March 14, 2009 6:06 PM


I don't hate America -- I oppose Usurper pResident Obama because I LOVE America. Can you answer my questions now?

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 5:50 PM


Posted by: ObamaBiden | March 14, 2009 5:43 PM

As Obama's father probably ate raw chimps, I can understand why Obama is interested in food saftey.

Posted by: birvin9999 | March 14, 2009 5:37 PM

I'm sure Rush and his blind followers in the GOP hope Obama fails at protecting our food supply as well.

Make you wonder why they don't just move to Afghanistan, if they hate the United States so much.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 14, 2009 5:35 PM


Good point.

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 5:28 PM

One comment on "safe" medicines. The FDA currently allows drugs on the market even with a statistical probability that a few people will die -- haven't you heard all of those disclaimers after TV / radio ads for medicine -- not to mention all of the deaths caused by drug interactions. Is The One going to get rid of all those drugs (especially since the lack of drugs would lead to even more deaths)?

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 5:25 PM

If he does the same thing in 'protecting food' that he has attempted to do with Veterans, then start growing your own food!!

Note the following:


Posted by: wheeljc | March 14, 2009 5:22 PM

If you are against safe food I would suggest you ignore all the warnings and have at it. Eat all the tainted peanut butter you can get. that's natural selection at its best. Don't forget the feed it to your kids cause you wouldn't want them to have to go on government assistance in order to survive. They could turn into socialists. GOD FORBID!

Posted by: Woodstocknative | March 14, 2009 5:01 PM

Food Safety?????? Doesn't the President of the United States have anything better to worry about that crap like this? He's leading us into a depression!!!! What an IDIOT!!!!!

Posted by: egrib | March 14, 2009 4:59 PM

Laws won't change much, causes of poor quality must be identified and addressed by producers.

Bush's style of management had as much to do with inadequate consumer protection as the philosophy in corporate board rooms.

President Obama offers laws or higher standards. Standards mean nothing for those motivated by fear of their boss or greed. The key is the capability of producers processes.

With poisonous ingredients from China, heparin killed patients in need of a lifesaving drug. The same bad management theory is in China. They repeatedly show America's manufacturing satellite incapable of delivering quality goods.

President Obama offers accountability and transparency, insufficient for management transformation. It may be a shift in lingo, but management practices haven't changed much, if at all.

Poor quality makes eating food or taking medicine a dice roll. It killed investing and politics.

Posted by: jepysdad | March 14, 2009 4:55 PM


I'm just about willing to agree to tax-payer funded abortions for any woman who is registered Democrat.

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 4:48 PM

Well said!

Posted by: rooster54 | March 14, 2009 4:33 PM

In a free country I have a right to stop buying food from someone after their food has killed me and given my children cancer. Shame on you socialists for trying to protect my family from unscrupulous enteprenuers who love money more than life itself! Do you want to take us from caveat emptor to caveat vendor? Sounds good to me. About time!

After a prolonged period without disgusting republicans, nobody would want an abortion. Then what would you do with nothing to be outraged about? Oh yeah, some inane crap about Obama's birth certificate.

Posted by: rooster54 | March 14, 2009 4:10 PM

A lousy $1 billion a year more for the FDA when we are spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently, we are more afraid of terrorists than we are of being poisoned by bad food. Which is ludicrous when one realizes the risk of being killed by terrorists is vastly more remote than the possibility of coming down with food poisoning.

The fact that over 4000 different items have been recalled because of peanut butter containing salmonella should make everyone aware of how easily dangerous food can be introduced into our homes. 5000 people in the US die every year from tainted food - that's more than were killed on 9/11. Yet no one thinks that's a big deal. I guess it only matters if it's your child who is the one who dies.

Posted by: mgkonyx | March 14, 2009 3:55 PM

The Bush boys, like Ari Fleischer and Rush Limbaugh, keep on attacking Democrats, so Obama lobbing a few of those bombs back at Bush seems entirely fair. By all appearances, how would we know otherwise, Bush was a willing dupe of neo-conservative theorists. The neocon theory that Iraq was ripe for the picking, that American troops would be greeted as liberators, that Iraq craved a Jeffersonian democracy, turned out, like the vast majority of their theories, to be completely wrong. Similarly, the Bush administration theory that free-markets work best when they are not monitored or constrained in any way turned out to be good for wealthy Republican party donors and bad for hard working Americans who stashed a chunk of their earnings in government-approved 401(k) plans, only to watch the value of those accounts plummet for lack of government oversight. Bush admitted that Wall Street "got drunk." He would know, being a dry drunk himself. We got wars. We got economic collapse. We owe Red China $1,000,000,000,000.00. We got expensive regulatory apparatusses that fail their missions. Republicans call good government types "goo-goos." That shows derision for the concept of getting value for money - effective government services for taxes paid. All but the wealthy contributed their full amounts to government coffers and the Bush administration was all we got. Bush appointees at the tops of cabinet agencies ensured no businessman was inconvenienced by government action. Whoo hoo! Great for wealthy people's bottom lines. Let's buy a yacht!

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | March 14, 2009 3:44 PM

Finally - a president who gets it. Most Americans are very worried about the problem with our food. Also it doesn't take away from working on the economy because the new FDA appointee will handle it. I think he picked a great person for the job, too. As an Independent voter I'm very impressed with what I've seen of our new president so far.

Posted by: bgormley1 | March 14, 2009 3:39 PM

gunnysgt77 wrote: "Stop buying tainted junk from China. That would be the biggest help, least cost and quickest 'fix'."

I agree 100%. But we also need to beef up the FDA to make sure that our domestic manufacturing, whatever is left of it, meets the standards we require and that the businesspeople don't cut corners in their frenetic search for profits. Profits are fine, but not at the expense of our health.

Posted by: RichardKefalos | March 14, 2009 3:22 PM

Hmmm, the big O is 7 weeks in and already doing agitprop, "it's all Bush's fault!"
I guess this is the change we voted for...

dr. o

Posted by: ad4hk2004 | March 14, 2009 3:02 PM

Can some Republic Party neocon enlighten me as to why basic government oversight of the public health and financial system is "Socialism?" Is making as much money at at cost more important than the public welfare?

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | March 14, 2009 2:53 PM






Posted by: Thinker | March 14, 2009 2:50 PM









Posted by: Thinker | March 14, 2009 2:48 PM

Obama wants to ensure the safety of food and medicine. It is utterly impossible to ensure that some things will never harm us. Obama speaks with the foolish idealism of a soviet comissar of the 1920's whose new system would create a perfect world of equality and social justice. Talk of ensuring perfection may appeal to Obama's fans but thinking is not their forte. Perhaps they have in mind not allowing cattle to walk on dirt because dirt is, well- dirty.

Posted by: mhr614 | March 14, 2009 2:40 PM

Has she paid her taxes???

Posted by: sprayadhesive | March 14, 2009 2:21 PM

Stop buying tainted junk from China. That would be the biggest help, least cost and quickest 'fix'.

Posted by: gunnysgt77 | March 14, 2009 2:14 PM

It wouldn't hurt America to go on a diet. Food abuse is a bigtime killer! Of course, if
Americans quit gorging themselves, it could slow economic recovery. Sterling Greenwood/AspenFreePress

Posted by: AspenFreePress | March 14, 2009 2:09 PM

Despite accomplishing more in 45 day's than george w bush had done in eight years,Barry Obama still saw the underated importance of safe food.His administration is trying desperately to avoid a food scare at this time.The gloomy economic outlook along with two wars overseas,the last issue the president needs is to send society to the "soilent green era"

Posted by: anthonysantora08 | March 14, 2009 1:51 PM

Priorities are all over the board...ECONOMY #1.

Posted by: wendy1231 | March 14, 2009 1:48 PM

Obviously there was a White House strategy meeting where it was decided to get Bush's name in the news for everything. Carville's polls determined that Bush's ratings on the Serpent Head meter are very high. So let's start a strategy of blaming Bush for everything even though there's not much Bush can do about it at this point.

Clearly, it is a desperation move.

Posted by: hz9604 | March 14, 2009 1:44 PM

Next up: Fox News will explain to you why this is socialism.

Healthy food- the next clever liberal plot! Get in your Doom Bunkers!

Posted by: losthorizon10 | March 14, 2009 1:27 PM

"Hundreds of thousands" are DEAD from tainted food?! Still less than from abortions.

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 12:37 PM

Are conservatives immune to salmonella and botulism? If corporations policed themselves would baseball have steroid users? I've never seen such whining in my life with absolutely no solutions.

Personally, I don't like Obama's plan because we have to find ways to spend less money, but instead of whining and crying about it, here's a solution: increase the penalties for managers guilty of negligence and step up prosecution. Pay for the costs by extracting high financial penalties for companies that endanger the public and also force both imprisonment and jail time for managers that are knowingly negligent or worse.

Sometimes harsher penalties don't work on desperate people, but they do work on people who have a lot to lose.

Posted by: tweldy | March 14, 2009 12:36 PM

I am very grateful that Obama is taking on the problems with the food supply. Until Bush came along we had a pretty safe food supply. When Bush slashed the number of food safety inspectors, ordinary people began suffering from salmonella, e coli and other dreadful diseases transmitted via fruits and vegetables. It is a sad state of affairs when one is afraid to eat the food in the grocery stores.
This is the kind of change I was hoping for when I voted for Obama. Let those Republicans who don't want the government to check the security of the food supply move to a third world country where they will be free to get all the diseases that come from lack of government control.

Posted by: bghgh | March 14, 2009 12:31 PM

Sounds all well and good, until you look at what the FDA has been able to accomplish with what they have. President Bush proposed a budget for 2009 that increased the number of FDA employees by about 10% to 10,500.

How many actual inspections does the FDA do, you might ask? Here's what Obama is quoted to have said in another article:

"And it's also because the FDA has been underfunded and understaffed in recent years, leaving the agency with the resources to inspect just 7,000 of our 150,000 food processing plants and warehouses each year. That means roughly 95 percent of them go uninspected."

Here's the problem. With 10,500 employees, the FDA inspected 7,000 plants, or appx. 5% of the universe. Why so few inspections? Because most of the employees of the FDA don't inspect anything! They are supervisors, managers, administrative assistants, human resource personnel, computer systems analysts, mail clerks, janitors, operations officers, directors, deputy directors, assistant deputy directors, and ten's of other occupational categories.

If you increase the number of actual inspectors, you increase support personnel by a factor of four or five! That's why so little gets done in this, and most every other, guvament agency. Because the people who do are so outnumbered by the people who do NOTHING!

Posted by: magellan1 | March 14, 2009 12:17 PM

Let's see. There are 3 times as many people as in the 1950's. There are the same number of inspectors as there was in the 50's. There are 5 times as many food processors. A few people are dying from tainted foods. What to do? What to do? I KNOW! NATIONALIZE FOOD PRODUCTION and set wage and price controls! That'll fix it!

Posted by: Fiftycaltx | March 14, 2009 11:50 AM

Obama has proposed an extra $1 billion in his 2010 budget for more inspectors, improved laboratories and other improvements at FDA...........

The man just signed off on $8B political favor earmarks and doesn't even have a clue what they are.

Had he stuck to this original plan he could have funneled money into FDA today .

Instead, one of those 8500 political favor earmarks grants $1.7M for an Iowa Pig Odor Study. I'm sure Iowa pig farmers are anxiously waiting to learn how their smelly pigs affect the community .... that is if there aren't cost overruns and the study group doesn't need come back for a second helping of "stimulus" funds.

Posted by: asmith1 | March 14, 2009 10:50 AM

Keep blaming et on Obama.... you looosers. I wonder what you guys are going to say next.. I am sick and it must be Obama's fault. I got constipation cause of too much gov. Blah blah blah

Posted by: thewayitis | March 14, 2009 9:30 AM

Isn't it time we get real.

hundreds of thousands of people are dead and no one knows anything and no one is resposible.

if any american in the street knowingly gave tainted food to another individual and caused serious illness or death, that private citizen would be facing jail time

who can any longer give respect, regard, or a pass to fda employees?

does Obama think his empty sttements are OK?

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | March 14, 2009 9:14 AM

First, Usurper pResident Obama has no legal authority over our food supply. Second, I've seen the menu from Sidwell Friends and Sasha is not eating peanut butter sandwiches three times a week.

Posted by: JakeD | March 14, 2009 8:38 AM

Because downer cows still enter the US food chain, I have stopped eating beef and beef products in any form [including soups and gelatin].

Posted by: bethechangeyouwant | March 14, 2009 7:50 AM

This article doesn't mention H.R. 875 or S. 425 and how they might affect anyone growing food products including those with their own gardens.
What about the community gardens in the inner cities that were featured on TV not too long ago?
This government wants to micro-manage everything in our lives.
How is that Constitutional?
"I'm from the government and here too help you"

So how do you like the "change" now?

Posted by: TexRancher | March 14, 2009 7:03 AM

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