GAO flip-flop puts price tag on consumers’ health

March 7, 2011

Business

By WALLY NORTHWAY

There’s an old Southern expression that goes, “I believe we got ‘er, if she don’t jump.” Well, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has more than jumped — it’s flip-flopped.

Earlier this month, the GAO released a report that questions the cost of transferring the inspection of seafood from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) is more than a little upset about this report. The trade association successfully lobbied Congress to have USDA as opposed to FDA inspections on the grounds of public health as imported seafood often comes from countries with lax food safety regulations.

The CFA and Congress claim that the FDA is currently inspecting only approximately 2 percent of the seafood imported into the U.S.

And where did they get this figure? Straight from an earlier GAO report that found a switch from the FDA to the USDA would be in the best interest of consumers’ health.

So, the GAO has, in essence, put a price tag on public health.

The Obama administration continues to take a pounding over healthcare reform. But at least President Obama is an elected official.

The GAO, without having to answer to the public, has simply changed its position. CFA used the word that fits best here — back-peddling.

The CFA is adamant that it supports streamlining food inspections, but said the “report’s suggestion that regulation of catfish be returned to the FDA is a giant step backwards in protecting the health and safety of American consumers.”

There’s another old Southern expression that goes, “If they don’t like it, let ‘em eat fish heads.” Let’s hope the GAO doesn’t get hold of some imported fish heads and becomes really ill.

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