Millions from coast to coast relaxed at barbecues this week, enjoying burgers, franks, salads and fresh fruits. Many of us, with good reason, had second thoughts as we flipped those burgers and bit into those franks because we’ve been hearing and reading a lot about dangerous foods that are imported from China.

The source of the problems with our food is not China. Our food safety problems have been growing out of control for the last six years. During that time the Bush administration has gutted the agencies that are supposed to regulate our food safety, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture. People beholden to the corporations they are supposed to regulate have been put in charge of those agencies, and the number of inspections has been cut by 70 percent. Not since Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” was written early in the last century has the food industry in the United States been so unregulated.

It’s worth nothing that more than 60 percent of all imports from China (80 percent of our food imports) were produced in China by U.S.-based transnational corporations. These companies pay as little attention to food safety regulations in China as they do to regulations in the United States.

Many Americans were sickened and some even died last year when they ate poisoned peanut butter. The deadly peanut butter came from a plant in Georgia owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Packing. The plant had not had an FDA inspection for three years.

People got sick and died last year from eating poisoned spinach traced to a California farm that had not been inspected by the Agriculture Department for five years.

What can be done? Fire all the Bush appointees in each of the regulatory agencies involved. Make it illegal for anyone who profits from food production to sit on these regulatory boards. Restore all the cuts in inspectors and increase the quantity and quality of inspections. Put representatives of the workers and their unions on the boards. The public has a right to affordable, healthy food!

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