Editorial roundup – March 2

Food safety system needs reworking

Los Angeles Times

The job of keeping our food wholesome has become more difficult as food itself has become more complicated.

Because processed foods include ingredients from many sources, it is hard to trace the origin of pathogens.

A package of ground beef, for instance, is no longer put together by a butcher pushing a single hunk of meat through a grinder; these days it includes trimmings from many cattle and multiple slaughterhouses. That means even a small quantity of meat contaminated with E. coli has the potential to taint tremendous amounts of hamburger meat sent out across the country.

Then again, if anything is more complicated than our food, it’s our byzantine system for checking its safety. At least 15 agencies are involved, but sorting out the responsibilities of just the two main ones — the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture — is hard enough.

Safeguarding food is one of the most basic yet most scientifically sophisticated roles of government. In the old days, an FDA inspector could easily sniff out rotten seafood; today’s inspections can require lab analysis that read like a chemistry textbook or testing to learn whether, say, milk powder contains illegal melamine, a toxic industrial chemical that has been favored as a cheap filler by unscrupulous Chinese food producers.

Importance of truth should be obvious

Los Angeles Times

Surely there is no one who should better understand how offensive it is to lie about one’s military service than the secretary of Veterans Affairs. Yet that’s exactly what Robert McDonald did the night he participated in the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count in January.

While chatting with a homeless man on skid row who said he had served in the elite special forces, McDonald responded, “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces.”

In fact, McDonald, who graduated from West Point and did serve in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was never a member of special forces. He apologized, telling the Huffington Post, which first reported his false claim, that he “reacted spontaneously.” The White House described his claim as a “misstatement” and said McDonald “never intended to misrepresent his military service.”

Of course it’s hard to know for sure what a person “intended,” but the fact remains that McDonald did — clearly and unequivocally — misrepresent his military service. You might even say he lied about it.