The Sequester Isn't Going to Kill Us With Food Poisoning

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While working in the world of food news is certainly not the grittiest of media jobs around -- nowhere near something like, say, covering police beats or (gasp!) actual overseas war reporting -- it does take its toll on one's outlook.

A lot of the job is scanning through legislation, speaking to local farmers, emailing with reps for organizations like the Human Society, and looking at the latest food-based scientific studies, most of which generally have the same message: The way we are doing things now is not right and we need to change it. Whether that's how we farm, or how we label, or simply what we put into our bodies, the tone is generally very doom-and-gloom. And being inundated with it every day makes the job very soul-drainy. So, when actual good news comes down the pipe, however minor it may seem, I feel obliged to pass it on.

So, today it is my pleasure and privilege to announce: Hey, everyone! We're not going to die because of The Sequester!

Remember this sequester thing that everyone was losing their minds about a few months ago? The across-the-board nationwide spending cuts happening because Democrats and Republicans can't come to an agreement on how to create a budget? And how these cuts will force national parks to close and your favorite local programs to be cut? And, arguably worst of all, how the FDA would be forced to fire upwards of 2,100 of their food inspectors, leading to a future that falls somewhere between having no meat to eat and an apocalyptic food-borne virus that will take out 95% of the human race?

Well, bad news: A lot of that's still happening. While the cuts have yet to affect our everyday lives, they will soon enough. But, good news: At least the FDA's wised up and decided not to cut their most vital jobs:

The 2,100 fewer inspections were a worst-case initial estimate, spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said. She confirmed the FDA does not expect to cut inspections or furlough workers at this point, but couldn't provide details on how training and travel will be affected.

Which isn't to say things are all rosy. The recent news that Meals on Wheels, the program that delivers hot meals to the elderly and infirm is being forced to drastically cut down on their deliveries because of the sequestration isn't something to get giddy about. And the aforementioned FDA spokesperson Burgess is still offering dire warnings about how the cuts will affect the nation as a whole:

"A sequestration of the magnitude contemplated, and this late in the budget year will have public health consequences for an agency that is already making every dollar count," Burgess said in an email. "Reduced funding for the FDA, including user fees, could increase risks to our nation's food safety."

But! That small change in wording from "will" to "could" is a welcome respite from the mounds of daily bad news. So rejoice, people! We don't have to worry about dying because we'll be eating food that is not inspected by the FDA! We just have to worry about dying because of, well, everything else!

How's that for a noncommittal "that glass contains exactly half the amount of water it can hold" outlook on life?

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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