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Is data manipulated?

Hidden agendas in Washington, D.C.? Can we trust those in government to report the truth when it comes to data on such things as food safety?

I have been asked if there were hidden agendas while I was in Washington, D.C., and if we can trust those in government to report the truth?

Tough questions deserving an attempt at a politically correct answer, and I am sure no matter how well I choose my words, there is going to be some serious finger pointing and allegations that follow.

Is data manipulated? Remember all those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction we saw pictures of and form your own conclusion.

Is data manipulated? How did we suddenly go from an estimated 72 million Americans suffering a foodborne illness per year to just 48 million within one week of signing the Food Safety Modernization Act into law.

Those were numbers (estimates) from the Center for Disease Prevention & Control (CDC) at the time. Recently I read a CDC report saying there are 9 million foodborne illnesses each year from a known pathogen. Nine million vs. 48 million? Is data manipulated?

The CDC website says there are 480,000 deaths per year related to smoking, or 1,300 per day.

The CDC website says there are 2,612 deaths from foodborne illnesses in the U.S. per year.

When was the last time you read a headline that 1,300 people died today from smoking?

Of the 2,612 food-related deaths, 800 are from viruses and 1,000 were bacterial, with 571 of those caused by salmonella or campylobacter.

What gets the headlines?  E. coli O157:H7 and listeria .

Still, the best example I have of manipulation is that 48 million number.

You see, CDC says there were just a little over 100,000 laboratory confirmed cases of foodborne illnesses from pathogens often linked to food. That number is from the CDC’s FoodNet Surveillance program that monitors this stuff in 10 locations that contain about 15% of the nation’s citizens.

So if you take the known, confirmed cases, times a factor of seven to bring the number closer to our entire population, you now would have approximately 700,000 cases of lab-confirmed foodborne illnesses; a long, long way from the 48 million claimed.

They get there by multiplying each confirmed case by a select number representing those they think have a foodborne illness but not having confirmed it. That is, not sick enough to seek attention. That gets you to the nine million mark.

The jump to the 48 million includes illnesses of unknown causes, illnesses of a known caus, but not necessarily food-related and even illnesses that are unknown.

Is that manipulation of numbers for a hidden agenda?  I will let you form your own conclusions, but if we have no crisis, we have no need for funding.

Are there hidden agendas in D.C.? Most are pretty open if you read between the lines,
and the agendas have been heavily discussed and debated during election campaigns, etc.

I personally think the bigger hidden agendas sometimes involve persons and/or groups wanting to reduce or do away with the consumption of meat under the disguise of promoting animal welfare and food safety.

Can we trust the government to always report the truth? Sometimes I wonder.

When a Secretary of Agriculture changes the testing protocols for ground beef served in the school lunch program because of a story run by USA Today, saying the health of the school kids is our most important reason to push for food safety but ignores changing testing for the burgers those kids and their younger siblings eat at home, you have to wonder about the true reason for the changes made.

When a Secretary of Agriculture declares that all “downer” and non-ambulatory cattle will be banned from entering the food chain because they pose a threat to our health, you have to wonder what the agenda really is.

A perfectly healthy 30-month-old steer slips on ice and breaks a leg; perfectly good beef will go to waste to appease who?

Remember, all the Presidential appointees do work for the man.

All agendas are his to be approved or denied.

All words spoken reflect on him.

All data must be defended when challenged by advocates and others like me. 

I worked for three different secretaries of agriculture. That makes it tough to learn their style, their agendas and their tolerance levels.

I knew and had worked for Mike Johanns when he was Governor in Nebraska before I accepted the nomination. That made it easier for me, knowing he would accept nothing less from me than the truth when I spoke and total openness and transparency in my actions.

I tried to meet his expectations every single day.

Secretary Johanns was a man with no hidden agendas, and would not tolerate manipulation of data to bring home a point.

The next undersecretary for food safety (if we ever get one) will have less than two years to learn the leanings of the ag secretary and of the President.

I do not envy that person one tiny bit.

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