Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to email@example.com.
05/16/2011 3:41 PM EDT
Imported Fish Not Tested For Harmful Drug Residues: GAO
Only about one-tenth of one percent of all imported seafood is tested for drug residues, reports the Government Accountability Office. Such antibiotics are given to farmed fish prone to bacterial infections and can cause cancer.
An indication of poor allocation of resources, only 1.5 percent of Chinese seafood processing facilities have been inspected by the FDA, despite numerous reports of banned medicines showing up in seafood from China, Vietnam and other Asian countries. In 2007, Alabama regulators found antibiotics in almost half of the Chinese catfish they tested. Eating such seafood can be harmful because it increases resistance to antibiotics used to fight infections.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries agreed in 2009 to enhance seafood oversight but that program is limited, especially as compared to the one used by the European Union. As a result, FDA inspectors generally do not visit fish farms to evaluate drug use or laboratories to assess the quality control of their testing.
Per the report:
In contrast, the EU reviews foreign government structures, food safety legislation, the foreign country's fish farm inspection program, and visits farms to ensure that imported seafood products come from countries with seafood safety systems equivalent to that of the EU. In addition, the scope of FDA's sampling program, which supplements its oversight program, is limited. Specifically, the sampling program does not generally test for drugs that some countries and the EU have approved for use in aquaculture. Consequently, seafood containing residues of drugs not approved for use in the United States may be entering U.S. commerce.
05/16/2011 3:39 PM EDT
The Wake-Up Call: Are Full-Body Scanners Safe?
• Are full-body scanners really safe? Scientists say the TSA shouldn't be so sure.
• Today's must-read: Jane Mayer's New Yorker article on Obama's war on whistleblowers, especially former NSA official Thomas Drake, who expressed his disappointment in the current administration:
• After five industry meetings at the White House, the EPA announced that it was delaying the reporting period for its requirement that companies update the official list of chemicals used in commerce.
"But power is incredibly destructive," Drake said. "It's a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community cooped Obama, because he's rather naive about national security. He's accepted the fear and secrecy. We're in a scary space in this country."
The Justice Department's indictment narrows the frame around Drake's actions, focussing almost exclusively on his handling of what it claims are five classified documents. But Drake sees his story as a larger tale of political reprisal, one that he fears the government will never allow him to air fully in court. "I'm a target," he said. "I've got a bull's-eye on my back." He continued, "I did not tell secrets. I am facing prison for having raised an alarm, period. I went to a reporter with a few key things: fraud, waste, and abuse, and the fact that there were legal alternatives to the Bush Administration's 'dark side' " -- in particular, warrantless domestic spying by the N.S.A.
• For-profit education advocates gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today to discuss "obstacles to innovation" such as pending regulations.
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