|From Food Politics, p. 101:
Mr. Taylor is a lawyer who began his revolving door adventures as counsel to FDA. He then moved to King & Spalding, a private-sector law firm representing Monsanto, a leading agricultural biotechnology company. In 1991 he returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he was part of the team that issued the agency's decidedly industry-friendly policy on food biotechnology and that approved the use of Monsanto's genetically engineered growth hormone in dairy cows. His questionable role in these decisions led to an investigation by the federal General Accounting Office, which eventually exonerated him of all conflict-of-interest charges. In 1994, Mr. Taylor moved to USDA to become administrator of its Food Safety and Inspection Service... After another stint in private legal practice with King & Spalding, Mr. Taylor again joined Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy in 1998.
So that's Michael Taylor's resume. Here's what he said recently, according to Agri-Pulse:
The changes in food safety regulation that seem most likely to find favor in Congress, with Obama's support, were described recently by Michael Taylor, the former deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and administrator of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service who served on the Obama-Biden transition team at agriculture. Taylor, who some consider the leading candidate to staff the White House working group, told a National Chicken Council committee meeting last month that the reform likely would mean "fixing agencies where they sit" rather than creating a new independent agency.
FDA is in "bad shape" and the FSIS meat and poultry inspection system is "obsolete," Taylor said. "We're spending a lot of government money to do inspections that could be done by someone else," he said. "We need to complete the transformation of FSIS as a food safety agency, away from inspection to a science-based public health agency." Taylor recommends that FDA have authority to require food manufacturers to write and follow food safety plans, improve its controls on imported foods and collect fees from industry to pay some of the cost.
Apparently there's a political back-story to Taylor's speech. The Bush USDA was working on a deal with poultry producers - the same people Taylor was speaking to - to move to "risk-based inspection," in return for allowing the poultry plants to speed up line speed. Speed up line speed??! That's the LAST thing we need. In fact, slowing down line speed would in itself be a fantastic food safety fix (as well as a fix to worker safety and animal rights).
The deal was going to permit increased line speeds if the poultry plants reduced salmonella contamination rates... a nice idea, but what about other bugs like campylobacter? There are over 2 million cases of campylobacter food poisoning in the U.S. annually, and most of that comes from poultry.
Also, the reduction in salmonella was a one-time thing for the poultry plants. If they increased line speeds and their salmonella rates went back up, the proposal didn't require them to slow the line speeds back down.
And about worker safety? Increased line speeds result in more repetitive motion injuries among workers. USDA ignores this because their job is only food safety, but as citizens who care about a just society, this is not an issue we can ignore.
Last, increasing the line speed leads to increased animal suffering. Believe it or not, poultry are exempt from our country's Humane Slaughter Act. From my upcoming book:
Poultry processors utilize throat-cutting machines that kill most birds. Employees are instructed to kill birds missed by the machine, but an undercover investigator reported "numerous birds that were scalded alive in the feather removal tank while they were still conscious and able to feel pain." The investigator brought this to management's attention and received a reply that it was an acceptable practice for up to 40 birds per shift.
One source I found online said that each line in Tyson plants kill 186 birds per minute. Missing 40 birds per shift would actually be a very low error rate. From what I've read, nobody was disciplined when they missed more than 40 birds per shift.
It looks to me like Taylor is up to no good, and Obama would be making a very bad move to include him in his administration in any way. I'll be sending my emails here.