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Food Safety: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

John Oliver discusses the groups in charge of keeping our food safe – from the FDA, to the USDA, to, most crucially, the Association for Dressings and Sauces.
Food Safety Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 10 Episode 13
Aired on October 15, 2023

Main segment: Food Safety
Other segments:

John Oliver discusses the groups in charge of keeping our food safe – from the FDA, to the USDA, to, most crucially, the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

* * *

John: Hey there, it’s me. The show hasn’t started yet. I mean, clearly, it’s started a little bit. I am already talking to you. But before the music and the lights and at least — theoretically — the laughter — I wanted to briefly talk to you about what’s clearly been a terrible week. The immense suffering in Israel and Gaza has been sickening to watch. And we’re not going to be covering it in the main body of our show tonight, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s horrific. I don’t really want to tell jokes about carnage right now, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear them. And second, we’re taping this on Saturday afternoon, and you’ll be watching it Sunday night, or Monday morning through an illegal VPN — I do know who I am talking to. But the point is, given how fast things are moving, a lot could change between the time I’m saying this, and the time that you hear it. But I do have a few broad thoughts that I think will still apply. And they have to do with sorrow, fear and anger.
Now sorrow is the first and most overwhelming feeling. The images we’ve seen this week, from last Saturday onwards, have been totally heartbreaking. Thousands are now dead in Israel and Gaza. It’s been devastating, not just to those in the region but to diaspora communities across the world. Whatever thoughts you have about the history of this region, or the current state of affairs — and I’ve shared mine on this show in the past — it should be impossible to see grieving families and not be moved. So there’s been sorrow this week, a lot of it, and also fear. Understandable fear of further attacks in Israel. And for those taken hostage. And fear of what’s to come in Gaza, as Israel’s leaders seem intent on embarking on a relentless bombing campaign, mass displacement, and a potential ground invasion. I don’t know where things stand in Gaza as you watch this right now, but all signs seem to be pointing toward a humanitarian catastrophe. Israeli officials announced plans to cut off food, water, fuel, and power. Hospitals are running on generators. This has all the appearances of collective punishment, which is a war crime. And I think many Israelis and Palestinians are feeling justifiable anger right now — not just at Hamas, whose utterly heinous terrorist acts set the week’s events in motion, but also at the zealots and extremists, across the board, who’ve consistently thwarted attempts at peace over the years. Israelis and Palestinians have been let down by their leadership time and time again, and I don’t have a great deal of faith in the leaders currently in charge to steer us toward peace. But I do still have some hope. Because the easiest thing to do in the world, after a week like this, is to engage in bloodthirsty rhetoric. And there’s certainly been plenty of that from those in power. But I will say, I’ve been struck by the many ordinary citizens, both Israeli and Palestinian, who’ve called for restraint this week, and not revenge. Just listen to how Noi Katzman, whose brother Hayim was murdered by Hamas last Saturday, chose to end this interview.

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Can I say one more thing?

Yeah. Thank you so much for —

Yeah, so, what I wanted to say is, the most important for me, and I think also for my brother, was that his death won’t be used to kill innocent people. I don’t want anything to happen to people in Gaza like it happens to my brother. And I’m sure he wouldn’t have any — either. So that’s my call to my government. Stop killing innocent people. And that’s not the way that brings us peace and security to people in Israel.

John: Right. People want and are entitled to peace. And I’m not going to tell either side how to get it — certainly not in this accent, which has frankly done enough damage in that particular region to last a fucking lifetime. But just know, in the long term, all the people who want to live in that region are going to keep living there. So peace is not optional, and will require some tough decisions. And I can’t say where a peace process ends, but it just has to start with that kind of ability to recognize our common humanity. That’s honestly all I’ve got for you right now, but we do still have our regular comedy show. And if you’re interested, I’ll see you the other side of our opening titles, when there’ll be lights, there’ll be music and — again, purely theoretically, no pressure on the audience — at least some sporadic laughter. And now, this.

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[Cheers and applause]

John: Welcome, welcome, welcome to “Last Week Tonight!” I’m John Oliver, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a busy week. RFK jr. announced he’s running for president as an independent, Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she and Will have been separated since 2016, and senator Bob Menendez found himself in what’s known in the legal world as “even deeper shit.” But we’re going to focus on what’s been happening on Capitol Hill. It’s now been a week and a half since eight representatives staged a coup against Kevin McCarthy, and ever since, the party has been struggling to pick a new speaker. Steve Scalise won a secret ballot on Wednesday to be put forward for a vote as speaker, only to withdraw the following day, after it became clear he wouldn’t be able to win a majority. And one notable house member summed up why he personally could never vote for Scalise.

I’ve reached out numerous times to congressman Scalise, and me reaching out and asking him for guidance in his leadership and him not reaching back out, that’s a dereliction of his duty as a leader, so I’m not voting for somebody who lacks fundamental leadership skills.

Is he snubbing you?

I don’t know, I don’t care, quite frankly.

John: Are you sure about that? Because it really seems like it’s because Scalise snubbed you. Honestly, Santos saying “I don’t care” in a tone that makes it clear he absolutely cares, might be the most transparent lie that he’s ever told. Which is saying something, because remember — this is a man who said he was a star volleyball player at a college he didn’t even go to, and said 9/11 claimed his mother’s life even though records show that she wasn’t in New York and she died in 2016. For George Santos, an almost clinically chaotic man, to decide you don’t have fundamental leadership skills is truly damning. All week long, republicans met behind closed doors to try and pick a leader. Although glimpses of chaos kept leaking into public view, like when one representative was seen bringing a lasso into the session. And you know things are messy when a U.S. congresswoman walks down the hallway with some horse equipment and all anyone can say is, “you know what? That’s not important right now!” Meanwhile, representative Nancy Mace — one of the eight who ousted McCarthy — showed up wearing a red “a,” and offered this utterly incoherent explanation.

I’m wearing the scarlet letter after the week that I just had last week, being a woman up here and being demonized for my vote and for my voice. I’m here to let the rest of the world know, and the country know, I’m on the side of the people. I’m not on the side of the establishment, and I’m going to do the right thing every single time, no matter the consequences, ’cause I don’t answer to anybody in D.C., I don’t answer to anyone in Washington, I only answer to the people.

John: Wait, what do you think The Scarlet Letter is about? And nobody help her, let Mancy answer. I want to hear exactly what she thinks the 19th century novel The Scarlet Letter is about. Do you think Hester Prynne had to wear a scarlet “a” because she girlbossed too hard for puritanical New England? I’m just saying, maybe read a book before you try and compare yourself to its protagonist. There’s a reason I wouldn’t say I’m like Christian Grey because I also wear a suit. That’s not what the book is about, and, let’s be honest, this suit wears me. But it wasn’t just Mace and Santos, lots of members were talking shit to the press, with one comparing discussions to “a marriage counseling session” and another likening the party’s antics to the tv show House of Cards. Which I guess is true in that it was kind of fun to watch at first, but now I’m just exhausted by it. There’s actually another way in which this drama’s like House of Cards, and it involves something one of its key protagonists, Matt Gaetz, has in common with Kevin Spacey. Sadly, my lawyers told me I can’t say what it is. But I can think it. And so can all of you.

[Laughter and applause]

And to hear some frustrated house members tell it, the fundamental problem is that their party as a whole is now set up to reward bad behavior.

These guys want to be in the minority, I think they would prefer that because they can just vote no and yell and scream all the time. And — but governing, you’ve got to work together.

It’s a tough scenario, but there are people in there that are honorably trying to get to the right place, and then there are people in there, as you know, that like to go on the tv and are not necessarily negotiating for anything other than tv time.

How does that make you guys look?

It makes us look like a bunch of idiots.

John: You know what, you’re right, you do look like idiots! And the fact that some of your members are dressing like they decided they were going to a Halloween party 20 minutes ago frankly isn’t helping.
But those incentives they mentioned aren’t just at the national level. As the AP pointed out this week, internal conflicts and power struggles have become hallmarks of the modern GOP, right down to the state and local levels. In Ohio, democrats had to cross party lines to end a standoff over who would become speaker of the house. In Texas, just this week, the republican attorney general suggested he’d request criminal charges against members of his own party, who — incidentally — led an impeachment trial against him last month. And in Michigan, back in July, a state republican party meeting devolved into violence, with this county chair getting into a brawl with a party delegate.

Surveillance video from inside the hotel doesn’t capture the initial encounter, but it does show the melee moving into the hallway as DeYoung falls hard on his back. He told police his dentures were damaged during the fracas.

I literally opened the door, and he kicked me in my crotch.

Okay.

I — I didn’t even have a second.

Okay.

I didn’t have a second.

John: Yeah, he was kicked in the balls. And I know that’s the eye-catching part of this story, but please don’t sleep on “his dentures were damaged during the fracas.” Which I assume is something that will be said verbatim after the fantasy suite episode of The Golden Bachelor. The point is, this sort of chaotic republican infighting is now a firmly entrenched pattern. Back in Washington, Jim Jordan was nominated to be speaker on Friday, but most people think he’s unlikely to get the necessary votes, either. Meaning we’re left without a speaker, a position absolutely vital to a functioning government. But I guess this is what happens when a party, for years, simply refuses to keep its extremist factions in check. The sad fact is, many current republicans, at every level, don’t seem to want to serve in government at all — they just want to dismantle it and stand atop the rubble for a tv hit. That’s the key reason why, as of taping, any hopes of an orderly transition of power from one house speaker to another have been — much like this Michigan GOP county chair’s testicles — humiliatingly crushed.

[…]

John: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns food. Whether you’re a vegan, a carnivore, or somewhere in between, all of it is either ripped from its home or dies screaming. Food is fun! Specifically, we’re going to talk about food safety. It’s a vital component of public health, as demonstrated by this old PSA about a military base having to deal with an outbreak of salmonella.

At midnight, about 40 of us in the duty section got a light meal. It was just about this time that things were beginning to happen. It began like this: at first a few of the men who weren’t in the duty section got sick. And it got steadily worse. Vomiting, abdominal pains, and diarrhea. It was hard to tell which caused the most trouble.

John: Except it isn’t, because diarrhea causes the most trouble. There’s just no doubt about that. If you had to choose between those three symptoms, diarrhea is dead last, every single time. Abdominal pains — not fun, but also, grow up. Sometimes your tummy hurts; that’s life. Vomiting — awful, but at least you can somewhat control the trajectory. It is possible to daintily vomit in public. But there is absolutely no way to retain any shred of dignity once you have shat yourself. It’s game over. You can’t come back from that. You’re basically an animal, you live at the zoo now. Odds are, you’ve probably experienced getting sick from food at some point in your life, because it happens a lot. Every year, an estimated 46 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illness, and of them, 128,000 are hospitalized, and about 3,000 die. Now, obviously, it’s in the public interest to try and prevent any of that from happening — which is why, so often, you’ll turn on the tv and see stories like these.

Kraft Heinz has voluntarily recalled 7,000 cases of Taco Bell salsa con queso mild cheese dip out of botulism concerns.

An expanded recall of peaches linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Several Jif peanut butter products are being pulled from the shelves.

Stores cannot sell this cereal legally because of this recall. So, if you have the honey smacks in your pantry, please throw it out.

John: Okay, couple of things there — on the first one, honestly, I’d always assumed that all Taco Bell jarred products could give you botulism. You want the spice, you roll the dice. Everyone understands that. And as for “throw out your honey smacks,” that’s pretty good advice even when there’s not a recall, because look at this shit. It looks like maggots glazed with sugar. And that’s without getting into the mascot. Who is this? Cereal mascots are supposed to be charming, whether they’re a cultural stereotype that this accent doesn’t get to enjoy, or an inappropriately sexy tiger, but this? This is nothing. Why does your shirt say “dig ’em?” Dig what? The honey smacks? Absolutely not, you amphibian pervert.
And look, when you see stories like those, you’d assume that the government is constantly on the lookout for potentially dangerous food. But it’s become increasingly clear that our food safety system — in particular, the food and drug administration, which oversees most of it — has some serious shortcomings. In 2016, an audit done by the agency itself found unacceptable delays in getting dangerous food off the shelves — finding that in 30 recalls, it took an average of 57 days from when the FDA was notified. And the author of that report acknowledged that was a big problem.

Unless you get all the product off the shelf, people still are at risk. If you are playing Russian roulette, you took all the bullets out of the gun and you put it to your head there’s no risk. But if there’s still a couple of bullets left in there, you’re still playing Russian roulette, aren’t you?

John: Wow, that is an alarmingly apt metaphor for the current safety of our food supply. Although, real quick, if you’re playing Russian roulette and you take all the bullets out of the gun, for what it’s worth: you are no longer playing Russian roulette. You’re in a community theater production of the seagull. I had to leave at intermission but you were so good. And you might remember, the FDA’s shortcomings were badly exposed last year, when Abbott, a company that makes 40% of this country’s baby formula, shut down its factory over serious safety violations — violations the FDA clearly should’ve acted on much sooner.

A sign of trouble came last September in a report to the FDA, an infant who became ill with a rare bacterial infection had consumed formula made at the Abbott plant. In October, an Abbott whistleblower sent FDA officials this 34-page document alleging that lax practices including regulatory violations were consistently overlooked. It wasn’t until January 31st that the FDA sent a team to the Abbott facility to investigate. There they found evidence of bacteria in a powdered infant formula environment that can be deadly to infants.

John: It’s true, the FDA took four months from their first sign something was wrong to do a follow-up inspection. And at that point, at least four babies had been hospitalized, and two died. Even an internal FDA report afterwards concluded the agency had “systemic vulnerabilities,” and a much more scathing outside audit faulted them for lack of communication and engagement across the agency. But the truth is, “scathing report finds fault with the FDA” is just not a new story. It’s happened again and again and again. You can find similar reports in 2010, 1991, and even this one, from back in 1969.

The American consumer is surrounded by an arsenal of products which can kill or maim him. And the food & drug administration has neither the money nor the authority to do much about it. That’s the gist of a confidential report prepared by seven senior members of the FDA.

John: That’s Walter Cronkite flagging the state of the FDA as a serious problem, half a century ago. And if something he reported on is still an issue, you know you’ve got a problem. I’m just saying, if JFK was still regularly getting shot in Dallas, you’d really hope somebody would’ve done something about it by now. So given we’ve known the way the FDA regulates food is some version of fucked for decades, tonight, let’s talk about exactly why that is, and why it’s been so hard to fix. And let’s start with the fact that — despite the FDA standing for “Food and Drug Administration” — the two parts of that are not given remotely equal weight. Drugs are prioritized heavily. FDA commissioners almost always come from the medical side, and have almost no experience with food issues. And apparently, it’s a long-running joke among FDA officials that the “f” in “FDA” is silent. In fact, its own staff — including some FDA commissioners — have been known to slip up and call it the federal drug administration. And, come on. There’s only two things to remember in the name: food and drugs. If you need a helpful mnemonic for it, just remember this simple phrase: “food and drugs.” It’s two fucking words. Also, interestingly, the FDA doesn’t actually oversee the safety of all food in the U.S. It oversees around 80% of it, but the remaining 20% largely falls under the USDA’s food safety and inspection service. And the division of responsibilities can get maddeningly complicated. While broadly, the USDA oversees beef, poultry, and some egg products, and the FDA oversees the rest, in practice, where the exact lines gets drawn can get ridiculous.

Take a look at this. Beef broth, made in a plant regulated by the USDA, which inspects every day. But chicken broth, made in a plant regulated by the FDA, which is inspected once every 5 years. In the frozen food aisle, cheese pizza is regulated by the FDA. Pepperoni pizza? Well, that’s the USDA. The fish? Well, that’s FDA, except one, catfish, that’s USDA.

John: Yeah, it’s pretty confusing. It can be very difficult to guess which agency oversees which kinds of food. For example, eggs in their shells? FDA. Eggs processed into egg products? USDA. The feed that egg-laying hens eat? FDA again. Open-faced meat sandwich? USDA, but closed-faced meat sandwich? That’s FDA. And you should know, if you make a half cheese half pepperoni pizza and then put an egg on top, the whole government actually explodes. And the thing is, that fractured structure can create a lot of cracks for problems to fall into. Then, there are the funding issues. Because despite the fact the FDA oversees, remember, 80% of food — they and the USDA receive close to the same amount of funding for food safety oversight. Meaning the FDA essentially has to make the same budget go four times as far. On top of that, the FDA’s job is much more complex. Because while the USDA’s work is concentrated in large meat-processing plants — of which we have relatively few, around 800 — the FDA’s purview includes about 35,000 produce farms, 300,000 restaurant chain establishments, 10,500 vending machine operators, and roughly 275,000 food processing facilities, more than half of which are overseas. Very basically, the FDA is spread extremely thin, and the USDA isn’t. And this discrepancy helps explain a shocking fact that came to light after that baby formula incident last year, regarding the size of the FDA team that’s tasked with overseeing those particular factories.

It’s a total of nine people who are focused on infant formula, at the FDA, and the budget. We got an additional four people allocated last year. But we’re going to need more than that.

John: That’s true, the entire department overseeing infant formula was just nine people! And that is not enough! For context, this show has four interns. And we need all of them! But the stakes of their jobs are just not nearly as high. Their only life-or-death duty is making sure Mr. Nutterbutter doesn’t get out of his cage. Oh, shit, oh, shit. Everybody stay incredibly still. So clearly, some of the FDA’s issues come from without, in how it’s structured and funded. But some of its problems come from within — like the fact that even by government standards, it has an infamously slow bureaucracy. Take, for instance, this very specific announcement they made at the end of 2020.

A shakeup for French dressing fans. The food and drug administration is proposing removing ingredient requirements for the salad dressing at the request of the Association for Dressings and Sauces. Right now, dressing must include vinegar, oil, and lemon or lime in order to be called “French.”

John: Now, I know that was about an FDA ruling. But the only thing I’m thinking about after watching that clip is the Association for Dressings and Sauces. I now want to know everything about them. I’m guessing ranch and barbecue sauce are the heavyweights there. Mayo too, obviously. And there’s probably turmoil over the hot young newcomers: truffle ketchup, green goddess dressing, all the flashy stuff. I get it. But who do you think the black sheep of the organization are? Worcestershire? Maybe some of the more fucked up mustards? This is the only thing I’m interested in talking about now. Just know, anytime I’m talking about something else, 90% of my brain is still focused on the Association for Dressings and Sauces. But the point of showing you that clip is that the FDA made that announcement at the end of 2020, after my new favorite trade group asked them to do something about the definition of French dressing, back in — and this is true — 1998. And when they announced the decision, they didn’t even explain why it took them more than two decades — spanning one 9/11, and the dissolution of the Spice Girls — to arrive at that decision. But all of this dysfunction has real consequences. Because it’s not just baby formula or honey smacks that can cause illness. One of the biggest vulnerabilities in our current system actually has to do with leafy greens. They’re overseen by the FDA, and are a major source of food contamination. And one of the key reasons for that is that large industrial farms have become more common, with livestock raised extremely close to where crops are being grown, and sometimes even sharing a water source. And that — as this expert explains — can be a real issue.

How we raise animals can fuel the growth of these bugs. So, if we crowd the animals together and you have one that’s carrying a really bad pathogen like e. coli o157, then they can poop those bacteria out, and then the shit from the cattle washes off into the — into the streams or into canals, irrigation canals. And then those can be used to water these plants. We have this distribution system for these pathogens from animals to produce.

John: Now, there are a lot of excellent production choices in that documentary, including deciding to both cinematically shoot a cow shitting, and allow someone to say the word “shit.” I support that choice. You can keep your little pleasantries like “feces” and “manure,” but it’s cow shit! Call it what it is. We know it when we see it, if not always when we eat it. But the point is, that shit can go from the animals, into water, which is then sprayed directly onto the lettuce. And given the growth in boxed and bagged salads, just one head of contaminated lettuce can get spread out across a lot of people. And while, with meat, you can kill off a lot of the pathogens simply through the act of cooking it. With produce like leafy greens, your options are significantly more limited.

Rinsing fruits and vegetables is always a good idea, but health experts say e. coli isn’t easily washed away.

I had a professor who used to say, “you can’t sterilize lettuce with a blowtorch.”

John: Wow. That is a striking thing for your professor to have said. Although, to be fair, it’s technically not true, because you obviously can sterilize lettuce with a blowtorch. And the reason I know that is, just watch me! See, I’m not saying this is a good idea, or that it tastes good afterwards, I’m just saying that you clearly can sterilize lettuce with a blowtorch. Okay? Facts matter. And all of this would make you hope that our produce is as thoroughly inspected as our beef, but the opposite is the case. Because while there are over 7,000 workers overseeing beef for the USDA, there are only 614 FDA field investigators responsible for leafy greens. And I’d say this is a disaster waiting to happen, except it already has happened, and repeatedly. In 2018, an e. Coli outbreak in leafy greens sickened 240 people and killed five across 36 states. Later that same fall, a different e. coli outbreak hit — again in leafy greens — but the FDA was so tied up dealing with the first one that an FDA executive wrote to his colleagues, “I have no resources to deploy.” And it’s a little disconcerting that messages from a modern public health department sound a lot like missives from the civil war. And as this food safety expert explains, all of that leads to a truly striking truth.

When you eat a hamburger, the — the most dangerous part of that is not the burger. It’s going to be the onion, lettuce, and the tomatoes.

John: That not great to hear, is it? Partly because I don’t want to live in a world where lettuce, onion, and tomatoes are dangerous, but also because I don’t want to live in a world where going to Panera is edgy. Panera is, and should always be, a milquetoast suburban destination where women in their 50s gossip, girls in their teens gossip and one very old man eats a bagel over the course of three hours. Panera should not be edgy, but as the FDA seems to have turned a greek salad into a loaded gun, I guess it fucking is now. So by this point, it should be clear a massive overhaul is needed here. And you should know, overhauls in food safety can happen! It happened to the USDA 30 years ago, after undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants led to one of the worst e. Coli outbreaks in u.s. History. Four children died during that — something that, just as a side note, jack in the box executives at the time could’ve handled with a little more tact.

The company’s president says Jack in the Box will pay all medical expenses for those who got sick, and he urged customers to come back to avert another blow to the company.

And that second tragedy would be loss of jobs.

John: That is a shitty response. Also, how is it the customer’s responsibility to keep your employees from losing their jobs? If we accidentally killed four people during one of our multiple stupid explosions, I wouldn’t be begging you to keep watching our show. I’d be getting sent to prison. Except I’m just kidding, rich white celebrities don’t go to prison. Felicity Huffman took one for the whole team, so now we’re square. The point is, after Jack in the Box, there was a public outcry, prompting a major overhaul to the USDA. And the thing is, the FDA almost had a similar moment. Back in the late aughts, there were a series of horrific outbreaks in peanut butter, spinach, and other foods. And in response, Congress passed the food safety modernization act, which gave the FDA sweeping new powers to regulate food. And at the time, everyone thought this was a pretty big deal.

Today, President Obama signs a bill for the first major overhaul of the U.S. food safety system in almost a century.

It will give the food and drug administration new powers to force mandatory recalls when foodborne illness or other hazards are found in the U.S. food supply.

If this law is a huge success, a lot of that success is going to be invisible. You are not going to be seeing as many people sick.

John: Yeah! It sounded great! Except if all of that had actually happened, I wouldn’t be doing this story right now, would I? We’d be back to our regularly scheduled programming of hamster loneliness or, I don’t know, fuckin’ trout gout. Spoiler alert, it’s more common than you think, and Congress refuses to act. There were just two small problems with the Food Safety Modernization Act: first, we didn’t fund the FDA to do all the new things that we’d just asked it to do. And second, the agency was still hamstrung by its glacial bureaucracy. For instance, the law mandated the FDA come up with a standard for water being used in agriculture — basically, a way to keep your salad from getting lightly misted with microscopic cow shit. The problem is, it’s 12 years later, and it still hasn’t produced a final rule. They did, in December 2021, unveil a proposed rule, but it had major problems — including the fact that it didn’t mandate any testing. Instead, it asked producer growers to identify and address their own potential hazards. Which is clearly less of a water standard and more of a self-graded water quiz. And while it’d be great if businesses could be trusted to keep themselves in check, that’s not generally how things go. For a good example of this, look at literally any business.
And look, some people might argue that the FDA simply needs to be funded better, and that its lines of authority need to be clearer. And to be fair, there has been some recent progress there. Just last month, they established a new role at the agency, so one person could be in charge of the FDA’s entire food safety program. It’s a bit incredible that role didn’t exist until just now, but still, I’ll take it! The problem is, history strongly suggests it won’t be nearly enough. A much bolder plan would be to actually break the FDA up completely and in doing so, create a new agency solely devoted to food. Now, that’s a big move, and one likely to face significant resistance — and it would need to be done very carefully. But I’d argue it might be worth it. So many experts we talked to for this story said, if we were to build a food safety system from scratch, it’d look nothing like the fractured system we have today. And the fact is, under the system we have right now, future outbreaks aren’t just possible, they’re absolutely inevitable. And I, for one, don’t want to live in a world where the only 100% safe way to prepare a very, very basic salad is this.

[…]

John: That’s our show. Thanks so much for watching. Good night!

[Cheers and applause]

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