During the debate over the budget sequester earlier this year, the Obama administration warned that cuts to discretionary spending growth might cause the federal government to furlough meat inspectors. Yet the latest food contamination outbreak is partly the result of the White House’s own failure to meet a congressional deadline for approving a rule allowing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to monitor imported foods.
The Wall Street Journal reports that imported Turkish pomegranate seeds contaminated with human waste have made 127 people sick in eight states, mostly in the southwest. It notes that the new food safety rule was promulgated in Nov. 2011 and would have taken effect in Jan. 2013–but the White House failed to act. The Office of Management and Budget says it “has not yet quantified the cost and benefits,” the Journal reports.
The Obama administration’s slow progress has been targeted in a lawsuit by the Center for Food Safety. As Michele Simon wrote at the Huffington Post in June, the court ordered the FDA to prepare a new set of deadlines and to work to achieve them. In the meantime, food imports–even those advertised as “organic”–remain vulnerable. It has everything to do with government foot-dragging, and little to do with funding.