Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sports Talk

Suppose that there are two baseball teams: The U.S. Eaters and The Food Industry Raiders. Suppose that they play games against each other in the same series repeatedly, and suppose that the umpire for these games is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Can you predict which team will win most games?

All this has to do with the following piece of news:

Under pressure from the food industry, the Agriculture Department is considering a proposal not to identify retailers where tainted meat went for sale except in cases of serious health risk, The Associated Press has learned.

Had that been the rule in place last month, consumers would not have been told if their supermarkets sold meat from a Southern California slaughterhouse that triggered the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.

The plan is being considered as the USDA puts the final touches on a proposed disclosure rule. It had lingered in draft form for two years until getting pushed to the forefront in February, when 143 million pounds of beef were recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., after undercover video by an animal-rights activist showed workers abusing crippled cows.

Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Connelly confirmed Wednesday that the agency is weighing whether to make naming the stores mandatory only for so-called "Class I" recalls, which pose the greatest health hazard. The Chino recall was categorized as "Class II" because authorities determined there was minimal risk to human health.

Of course the suppliers don't want their names released. But what should the umpires do?

The whole scenario is wrong, not only because the umpires are in the pocket of the business interests but also because the government is not supposed to referee two competing teams in this way. The government is supposed to work for the citizens.