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Attack of the killer tomatoes
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    Run! Run for your life!
    Tomatoes. AAAAAAAAAH!
    That’s right, not long ago the Food and Drug Administration identified certain types of tomatoes as the likely cause of a salmonella outbreak that to date has sickened more than 1,000 people in 17 states.
    As a result of this announcement, tomatoes all over the country were pulled from shelves, bins and refrigerators with the hope of limiting the outbreak. Heck, fast food joints all over Statesboro had signs in their drive-thru windows apologizing to customers for the unavailability of the vegetable fruit.
    For me, this was actually a blessing in disguise. Until the tomatoes were back on menus, I could order a sandwich — hold the tomato — and feel reasonably confident I wouldn’t be taking tomato slices off my burger and flinging them at passing cars.
    (Thanks FDA)
    Fortunately for most Americans, the FDA acted quickly and released an advisory cautioning people to the danger of tomatoes. Within just a couple of weeks, anything resembling a tomato was discarded. I even saw a lady throw away oven mitts with little tomatoes stitched on them.
    Unfortunately, just as tomato farmers are seeing a drop in price from $16 to $10 per 25-pound box and losing an estimated $500 million on crops sitting in the field, the FDA discovers that not everyone who was ill ate tomatoes.
        Then they started looking at jalapenos (I see what’s coming — blame the Mexicans.)
    “But jalapenos cannot be the sole culprit; many of the sick insisted they did not eat hot peppers or foods like salsa that contained them,” said CDC Food Safety Chief Robert Tauxe. “We are quite sure that neither tomatoes nor jalapenos explain the entire outbreak at this point. ... We're presuming that both of them have caused illness."
    So, while the Feds are interviewing people to look for the source of a bacterium commonly found in raw meat and poultry and easily killed by proper cooking/washing, these farmers are potentially getting ruined (or their insurance company is taking a big hit).
    I’m sure most people are comforted that the government acted — even if it acted improperly or with incomplete information. They acted. But why pull the trigger without all the information – for an organism that is typically non-fatal and can be killed with proper preparation? Just tell us to proceed with caution.
    (Tangent: The FDA has approved drugs that cause heart attacks and cancer and we trust them with our food supply. Hmm.)
    Look, I’m not the anarchist everyone thinks. But when you centralize the kind of authority that the FDA has, then bureaucratic mistakes can have significant impact on segments of society with no repercussion to the bureaucracy. That’s the most ignored characteristic of centralized government: unintended consequences.
    Anytime a government agency or any policy making group makes a decision, it rarely ponders the side-effects.
    The classic historical reference is the Treaty of Versailles. It has been argued by numerous historians that had the treaty not imposed such harsh sanctions and conditions on the German people, then the economic environment would not have been created, which allowed Hitler and the Nazi party to come to power.
    (That’s an argument for the academicians.)
    For a more recent example, the Iraq war. In all the lead up to the conflict, there was little to no mention of the possibility of an oil price spike. Not on CNN, not on FOX, not on PBS. No one was talking about it. While a few mentioned $50, and some even mentioned lower oil prices, no one even thought about $140 (over $100 increase since 2003).
    An even better example is the massive debasement of the dollar made possible by prolonged reduction of interest rates by the Federal Reserve. While most people think, “Yea! My mortgage rate is low,” what they fail to realize is that low-interest rates by the Fed cause an increase in the money supply — a.k.a. inflation. This is why gold is over $800 per ounce and oil is nearing $150.
    Bottom line: the bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the impact of a mistake. As such, we — as government — need to being looking at ways to reduce the influence of a centralized federal government and move towards more local and state control (in that order). That way we can become states united instead of the centralized bureaucracy of America.
    Phil Boyum wants to know if you were singing the theme song to the movie as you read the headline. He can be reached at (912) 489-9454 or at
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