Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality
By David G. Young
WASHINGTON, December 13, 1999 --
One of the most valuable traits humans inherited from their animal ancestors is an instinct to avoid foods that have made them sick. I received an acute reminder of this bestial inheritance last week when I decided to eat something containing raw eggs.
Well, a kind of eggs.
Living the baked-goods devoid bachelor lifestyle, it is a rare day when fresh eggs enter my home. So when I got the urge to make a mixed cocktail containing egg whites, I began to do what any learned bartender would do -- look for substitutes. That was a bad plan.
Deep in the recesses of my freezer was a small carton of Egg Beaters® -- a cholesterol-free egg substitute made up of egg whites and yellow die #3. Not once, but three times the instructions warned me that Egg Beaters® must be cooked thoroughly. I therefore quickly proceeded to add them to my drink and consume them raw.
The results were predictably uncomfortable. My animal instincts tell me I will never try that again. I can only imagine the bacteria-infested Egg Beaters'® factory -- full of huge vats of a thick soup of cholesterol-free but salmonella rich egg muck that eaten raw has a safety rating that probably ranks up there with toxic waste.
It was with mixed emotions, then, that I read of President Clinton's plan to help prevent infected eggs from coming to market. In his radio speech on Saturday, Clinton proposed strict new federal rules that would require additional testing and sterilization steps in producing the nation's egg supply. Emphasizing his point, Clinton declared, "Food safety is part of our citizens' basic contract with the government."1
That's where he lost me.
In a history overflowing with big ideas about the relationship between people and government, is this the best our president can do? Karl Marx believed government must institute a dictatorship of the working class and control the means of production. Thomas Jefferson, taking the opposite view, proposed 200 years ago that government should perform no services that the citizenry cannot perform for themselves. Even Bill Clinton's wife, Senatorial candidate Hillary, sought to create a revolutionary government-dictated health care system six years ago.
But eggs? Please! Bill Clinton's presidency, it seems has become so devoid of vision that the best it can contribute to the leadership of the free world is a misguided attempt to increase in the safety of the American egg supply.
This might be dismissed with a roll of the eyes as a harmless action if the results weren't so intensely irritating. Four years ago, when on a visit to Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains, I came across an old-fashioned custard stand in a small Appalachian town. Excited at the prospect a treat, I stopped at KD's Kustard and asked the woman behind the counter for a sample of this old-style delight.
"We don't have any custard," she said apologetically. Shocked at the glaring irony here -- not to mention the serious case of false advertising -- I asked why. As it turns out, David Kessler, the activist FDA Commissioner in Clintons' first term, had banned the sale of custard since it contains raw eggs and thus poses a risk of salmonella poisoning. Sigh.
It's not that I don't understand the risk associated with eating raw eggs -- believe me I do. But what business of the government is it to stop me if I make the informed decision to risk my abdominal comfort for the chance to savor a mouthful of frozen custard? How much more patronizing can the government be when it takes such insanely invasive steps to prevent me from eating food which it has decided I have no right to buy?
Judging what food I should and should not eat is a job that is much better left to my own choice than the largest and most well informed government committee. I cannot think of any issue that better fits Jefferson's vision of limiting government from doing that which citizens can best do for themselves.
It was with this in mind that I made a pre-emptive strike against Clinton's proposed egg safety rules. This time using fresh eggs, shells carefully washed with anti-bacterial soap, I remade that egg-white laden cocktail. The happy results -- three days and counting -- are a testament to the wisdom of entrusting choice of safe foods to individual people -- aided, of course, by millions of years of inherited animal instinct.