Personal Choice versus Public Protection

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A guest blog entry from Jay Smith, MD, MPH - Policy Committee C0-Chair

Many people feel that the government has no business regulating their risk taking.  And many of our legislators feel that is the overwhelming desire of New Hampshire voters.  They can often be persuaded that children need special protection but even that can be a tough sell when it is perceived that proposed laws might infringe on parental rights to make decisions for their children.  This ranges from things that might impede routine vaccination to parents being allowed to sign off on their minor children’s use of tanning booths.  Our allies and we seem to have won the fight on the first of those but have likely lost the fight to prohibit underage tanning even though it got through the House (since the Senate committee voted 4 to 1 that it shouldn’t pass, it’s prospects are quite dim).

We know that the public is often under informed on risks but those in favor of unfettered choice think that simple disclaimer labeling should be all that is needed.  Hence the desire to allow farmers to sell meat from exotic species like bison and elk at retail with nothing much more than their name and date of slaughter on the label.  The reason cited for HB499 was the difficulty of having to corral and bring such an animal to USDA certification facilities that are a long way away.  Since these are not domesticated species, that is understandably tricky, expensive and may change the desirability of the meat due to the effects of prolonged stress before slaughter.  None-the-less, we do know that things like E.coli O157:H7 are spread in the wild so they are likely to be a threat.  This week, a subcommittee work session to amend the original bill will try to find a compromise that makes sense without putting too many unsuspecting people at risk.  The food safety people from the NH DHHS will, of course, be there.  I will also attend but I’m not really a food safety expert, just a physician who knows that reported food-borne illness is only the tip of the iceberg.  Others with direct experience of why we need tight regulation of meat are encouraged to attend or at least share your thoughts with the members of the House committee on Environment and Agriculture.  This is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the 21st.  If you want to write, the group email address is: HouseEnvironmentandAgricultureCommittee@leg.state.nh.us
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