Food Safety Scares

January 25, 2006

January 25, 2006

Is there another baseless, politically motivated food scare brewing? A little over a month ago, the Chicago Tribune began writing stories designed to scare the public about the deadly risk of mercury in our seafood -- in swordfish, and salmon, and walleye and orange roughy, and even canned tuna. It reminds me of other scares orchestrated by environmentalists, vegetarians, tree huggers, and Green Peace types. How valid was the Alar apple risk that just about put Washington apple growers out of business? Do you remember when the food safety fringe told us that we had to stop eating bacon because when you fry it, it becomes a carcinogen? And you would get cancer.

Those campaigns were just trumped up nonsense. The hysteria over mad cow disease is another example of allowing the media, manipulated by a few that have a philosophical ax to grind, to scare the public. Out of all the people in the world, we have only had 160 cases of humans getting mad cow and that was after eating infected beef in Europe for years. No one has come down with mad cow disease in North America.

Are all of these campaigns driven by a sincere interest in our safety? Not hardly. The Alar apple gambit was all about stopping the use of chemicals in the production of food. The bacon scare was because the advocates are vegetarian sympathizers. Just like PETA. And now, we have environmentalists waving a red flag about mercury. Why? They want us to do something about air contamination. The mercury in the air ends up in the water -- ends up in the fish. But really, is it a danger to our health? I don't think so.

In Japan, people eat an average of 145 pounds of fish a year. We eat 16 pounds. The Japanese are eating almost 10 times the amount of fish that we eat. They don't have any evidence that mercury in fish is a health problem and neither do I.

I have confidence in our food safety regulators at USDA and FDA. There is no need to sound the alarm when there is nothing to be alarmed about.

Follow the USDA dietary guidelines and eat your apples; eat your bacon and your beef and, yes, it's safe to eat your tuna too.

Until next week, I am Jack Block from Washington.