Michele Bachmann’s Latest Job Creation Idea: Less Food Safety Regulation, More E. Coli

GOP 2012 presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann yesterday brought her anti-government message to a meatpacking plant in Des Moines, Iowa, one day after she delivered the same rhetoric at a traffic light factory in Waterloo, Iowa (that depends on government contracts). At the meatpacking plant, Bachmann railed against regulations that protect the nation’s food supply, saying that they are “overkill” that is preventing job creation:

Bachmann says, as do most of those in the GOP field, that a lightened regulatory load would allow employers to spend money on expansion rather than federal compliance. But the Minnesota congresswoman is the first to focus the argument on the food-processing industry.

That’s part of the problem, the overkill,” Bachmann told reporters during an appearance in which she posed with huge slabs of beef. “And when they make it complicated, they make it expensive and so then you can no longer stay in business.”

As the Associated Press noted, Bachmann’s call to do away with food safety regulations “follows high-profile recalls of peanuts, eggs and other tainted food products.” Just last month, in the third-largest recall on record, food giant Cargill had to pull 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.

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. This month, the Agriculture Department announced that it “will ban the sale of ground beef tainted with six toxic strains of E. coli bacteria that are increasingly showing up as the cause of severe illness from food.”

Early this year, President Obama signed a landmark food safety law, which was the first upgrade of the nation’s food safety system since 1938 (and which Bachmann voted against). However, House Republicans have refused to approve the necessary funds to implement the law, because they believe the private sector always “self-polices.” And it seems that if Bachmann had her way, the government would begin rolling back these regulatory advances.