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Mike Espy

October 16, 1994

The resignation of Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (Oct. 4) represents more than a personal tragedy for a dedicated public servant and a political liability for the President. It represents the latest victory by the meat industry in its relentless battle against the public interest and a form of retribution for Espy's insistence on improved meat inspection and consumer-warning labels on raw meat and poultry products.

This is reminiscent of the flap over the celebrated McGovern report, which ushered in the government's current involvement in dietary guidelines. In February, 1977, following extensive testimony from hundreds of health experts, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published "Dietary Goals for the United States," recommending that Americans reduce their consumption of meat. At an extraordinary public hearing demanded by the meat industry, industry officials told committee chair Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) that his committee would be dissolved and that he would not be reelected. They made good on both promises and the political impact lingers on.

Since then, the meat industry has confronted government officials on a number of public interest issues, including cancer-causing growth hormones and nitrite curing agents, antibiotic residues, food safety inspection, labeling of meat containing ground bone, worker safety and grazing fees. The meat industry has won every one of these confrontations, which the help of industry officials running the Department of Agriculture.

Espy was not a meat industry official. Espy had the gall to challenge the industry on public health issues and the political support to win. Espy had to go.

MELVIN MARKS

Tarzana

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