Bush: Let the rabble eat Chinese poison

Bush: Let the rabble eat Chinese poison

The Chinavore’s Dilemma

For a while last year, it seemed the reports of tainted food, drugs, and toys flowing in from China would never cease. First came the pet food scare, in which a toxic additive killed thousands of animals. Summer brought vast recalls of lead-tainted Thomas trains and other name-brand toys, counterfeit Colgate containing antifreeze, salmonella-infected toddler snacks, and ddt-contaminated seafood. In the fall and winter, dozens of patients died after receiving bad batches of heparin, a blood-thinning drug produced in China by US firms.

At the height of it all, President Bush offered lip service. “The American people expect their government to work tirelessly to make sure consumer products are safe. And that is precisely what my administration is doing,” he declared that July. He then issued an executive order directing Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to seek solutions. Two months later, Leavitt promised that US agencies would pinpoint the riskiest imports and step up enforcement. And then nothing happened.

William Hubbard, a senior Food and Drug Administration official who retired in 2005 after serving under seven presidents, had seen it all before. In response to the 9/11 attacks, staffers at the fda–which oversees some 80 percent of food imports (the usda handles the rest)–had developed an Import Strategic Plan that revealed perilously weak controls on food imports. Unveiled in 2003, it was intended to boost inspections of risky cargo and slap greater penalties on importers of dangerous goods. It would have cost a paltry $80 million, but the administration had already made its wishes clear: No new programs. As Hubbard recalls, then-deputy fda commissioner Lester Crawford “told us there’s no money for this, and the White House wants to cut it.”

Ah yes, GOP governance in full bloom. Why do something, when just talking about it is so much easier and cheaper?

Just ask bin Laden. He’s eating a big plate full of Sweet and Sour Antifreeze at a diner in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans.

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