Salmonella-Tainted Turkey Sickens Dozens As GOP Seeks To Slash Food Safety Budgets

In the third-largest recall on record, food giant Cargill is pulling 36 million pounds of ground turkey out of stores after a salmonella outbreak linked to one of the company’s plants sickened nearly 80 people, killing one. The recall follows other salmonella related troubles in the U.S., including salmonella-tainted eggs producing the largest U.S. foodborne illness outbreak since 1973 last summer.

According to the Hill, “although the first illnesses [related to the current outbreak] were reported in March, it required months for federal regulators to trace the cause back to Cargill’s turkey.” And things are not likely to get better going forward, as House Republicans are blocking the funds to implement a landmark food safety law and have proposed slashing the budgets of food safety inspectors:

As part of their Agricultural appropriations bill, House Republicans in June voted to slash millions of dollars from the FDA’s budget, which would have prevented the agency from enforcing tougher food safety laws installed by the Democrats in December.

The Republicans also cut funding for USDA food inspectors, who are charged with ensuring the safety of poultry, among other meat products.

In a statement yesterday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) took the GOP to task for cutting food safety funds that are so clearly necessary. “The House majority has slashed funding for the FDA and USDA, choosing to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy over investing in and improving our food safety system,” she said. “By cutting their funding, we have limited their effectiveness and asked FDA and USDA to do more with less, and the impact of these cuts is starkly clear with this most recent recall.”

At the moment, one out of six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness every year, with 128,000 of those resulting in hospitalization. Ultimately, 3,000 people die from foodborne illness annually, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project has found that foodborne illness costs the U.S. $152 billion each year.

Republicans have justified their cuts to food safety by insisting that the private sector “self-polices.” But that clearly wasn’t the case here, and this isn’t the first time that Cargill has had problems and been forced into a recall. In fact, “in 2007, the company recalled roughly 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties linked to an outbreak of E. coli.”