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 “food safety” advocate.
“As ABC’s Lisa Stark explains, this case is calling into question how the entire food supply is monitored,” anchor Charles Gibson said, introducing Stark’s story.
After a brief sound bite from Tom Stenzel of the United Fresh Produce Association defending the industry’s commitment to safety, Stark set out to push for more regulation.
“Food safety groups say part of what’s wrong is government oversight of the fruit and vegetable industry, which is nowhere near as tough as oversight of the meat business,” Stark noted before showing CSPI’s Caroline Smith DeWaal complaining that “the FDA simply doesn’t have the budget, the manpower, or the authority to really do the job correctly.”
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 “pass legislation to form a unified, independent food-safety agency” with the power “to recall food from the market and to penalize companies that produce contaminated products.”
Stark did not clearly explain to viewers DeWaal’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 “consolidating food safety under one agency.”
Durbin’s liberal voting record clocked in at a “liberal quotient” 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 Stark’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.
“The judicial system can play an important role in spurring public health advances,” CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson argued in a May 3 press release. Yet the following morning on “The Early Show,” co-host Julie Chen failed to mention, much less question, CSPI’s use of lawsuit threats to achieve its aims.
A month later on the June 13 “World News Tonight,” ABC’s Elisabeth Leamy similarly failed to scrutinize CSPI’s use of a lawsuit to push KFC to change its cooking oil. Leamy ignored the group’s liberal leanings, calling it a “consumer group.”