ABC Issues Stark Call for More Produce Regulation
An E. coli outbreak in pre-packaged spinach proved a convenient excuse for ABC to push for more regulation of American agriculture, citing the pro-regulation, anti-food industry Center for Science in the Public Interest as merely a â€śfood safetyâ€ť advocate.
â€śAs ABCâ€™s Lisa Stark explains, this case is calling into question how the entire food supply is monitored,â€ť anchor Charles Gibson said, introducing Starkâ€™s story.
After a brief sound bite from Tom Stenzel of the United Fresh Produce Association defending the industryâ€™s commitment to safety, Stark set out to push for more regulation.
â€śFood safety groups say part of whatâ€™s wrong is government oversight of the fruit and vegetable industry, which is nowhere near as tough as oversight of the meat business,â€ť Stark noted before showing CSPIâ€™s Caroline Smith DeWaal complaining that â€śthe FDA simply doesnâ€™t have the budget, the manpower, or the authority to really do the job correctly.â€ť
Stark left out that CSPI advocated a bigger government bureaucracy to handle food inspection well before the recent spinach contamination episode.
In a November 2005 report, CSPI called for Congress to â€śpass legislation to form a unified, independent food-safety agencyâ€ť with the power â€śto recall food from the market and to penalize companies that produce contaminated products.â€ť
Stark did not clearly explain to viewers DeWaalâ€™s advocacy of such a sweeping bureaucracy, although she did show a sound bite from Sen. Dick Durbin, a liberal Democrat from Illinois, who calls for â€śconsolidating food safety under one agency.â€ť
Durbinâ€™s liberal voting record clocked in at a â€śliberal quotientâ€ť of 98 out of 100, according to the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. The American Conservative Union gave Durbin a mere 7 points out of 100 points in his lifetime rating.
Absent from Starkâ€™s story was an argument against more regulation, or an examination of how more regulation could result in higher produce costs for consumers.
As the Business & Media Institute has documented, CSPI is far from a dispassionate consumer or food safety group, although the media often present its views without advising audiences of its liberal agenda and penchant for litigation.
â€śThe judicial system can play an important role in spurring public health advances,â€ť CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson argued in a May 3 press release. Yet the following morning on â€śThe Early Show,â€ť co-host Julie Chen failed to mention, much less question, CSPIâ€™s use of lawsuit threats to achieve its aims.
A month later on the June 13 â€śWorld News Tonight,â€ť ABCâ€™s Elisabeth Leamy similarly failed to scrutinize CSPIâ€™s use of a lawsuit to push KFC to change its cooking oil. Leamy ignored the groupâ€™s liberal leanings, calling it a â€śconsumer group.â€ť