The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Terrorism isn’t political

Kathlyn Hotynski

Into my fourth year of English and CJ courses, I have unavoidably paid attention to word choice. As a high school student who did not enjoy English, I never considered the words describing a situation to trump the situation itself.

So when I saw ‘terrorist” and “peanut butter” in the same sentence Saturday morning, I didn’t notice the oatmeal dripping off my spoon and onto my sock; it just didn’t seem to matter. Really, I didn’t know you could put terrorism and peanut butter together.

According to a Feb. 16 Reuter’s report, 290 people in 39 states have salmonella. The contamination occurred in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter.

After reading the first half the report I went to my cupboard, laughing at the irony. Standing in my kitchen, I looked at my three-fourths empty jar and considered keeping it. Deciding it wasn’t worth it, I cursed at Peter and dumped him.

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Maybe if I had needed it for a sandwich to go along with a pint of ice cream and some movies on Valentine’s Day, things may have been different.

I went back to my computer and finished the article. That is when oatmeal hit my sock.

“If we cannot protect the nation’s supply of peanut butter, one must ask how prepared we are for a terrorist attack on our nation’s food supply,” U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said in the report.

After putting my kitchen on alert level orange, I thought of how the public could be more aware of possible food terrorism. I thought of throwing my jelly away by association, and my Ramen noodles had always tasted funny. They were booted a while ago.

Joking aside, Stupak does bring a good question to the table. A type of product tampering similar to the cyanide laced Tylenol in the early 1980s would be horrific. So obviously we should take all of the security measures we can to protect ourselves from any act of terrorism. Yet, dirty tools are the main cause of salmonella. The jump to terrorism seemed like a stretch.

The next paragraph was more reassuring. Stupak continued, “As Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, I have already been working with Commerce Committee Chairman (John) Dingell to open an investigation into the adequacy of the FDA’s efforts to protect our nation’s food supply.”

If the FDA is questioned, it should be according to their standardized tests for the cleanliness of equipment. As chairman of the HOIS, it is Stupak’s duty to collaborate for an investigation. It is also reassuring that he feels more collaboration needs to occur between health departments to be investigated, as the article later mentioned. I don’t mean to criticize them for any of those things.

However, it does not take an incident like a peanut butter contamination to realize a worst case scenario.

A catastrophe should be planned for, regardless of the situation. There are plenty of departments that could deal with terrorism and food. According to the same Reuters article, the FDA, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture are involved in the current investigation of the outbreak. And if their investigation shows a need for threat prevention, I’m guessing the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Center for Food Protection and Defense would also get involved.

Instead of loosely using the word terrorism, leaders and legislatures could discuss current preventative steps to thwart the act. They could keep us posted on the health situation at hand and update us on the prevention of threats when we need it. Specific details that could reveal weaknesses do not need to be revealed but neither does every little instance of a possible threat. Proper preventative measures should not call for this attention.

If we are going to take bigger problems from this incident, maybe they should concern events that have already taken place. There could be a discussion about how some sort of nationwide health care would help those without insurance. Lawyers are building a case against ConAgra Foods; yet, couldn’t those who are ill avoid the legal system to pay for the bills? What about those ill without insurance, whose contraction does not merit a suit?

A mention of terrorism should be supported by legitimate evidence. The unfortunate salmonella incident could highlight other weaknesses, not overshadow them.

Groessel is a senior print journalism major and columnist for The Spectator.

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Terrorism isn’t political