Having read and listened to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's attempts at ground beef-related damage control in the wake of the recent food safety revelations, I'm left to wonder if the USDA simply needs to get out of the food safety business entirely.
Vilsack himself -- in a Minnesota NPR radio interview where he defended the USDA's dual role as a marketing service and a food safety regulator, its recent shift towards more aggressive testing, and its ability to inspect foreign meat importers -- all but admitted that the USDA has fundamentally failed in its mission. How so? The interviewer asked him one final question:
Q: Can you assure ... our listeners that ground beef is safe?
A: I can assure you that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure that that product is safe through our testing, through our inspectors ... I will say also that there is still work to be done to continue to improve what we do and until we get the number of food-borne illnesses down to zero and the number of hospitalizations down to zero and the number of death down to zero, we'll still have work to do.
Please note that he did not say "Yes, I can."