Thursday Roundup: Smithfield Food Safety

Senators ask for food safety to be part of Smithfield purchase evaluation • Doctor shortage in rural areas • Nebraska small town hopes for big results from small “Tour” • More readers paying to get access to news online.


Three quarters of the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee have asked the Obama administration to look carefully at food safety as they evaluate a Chinese firm’s bid to purchase Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer.

“We believe that our food supply is critical infrastructure that should be included in any reasonable person’s definition of national security,” the senators wrote in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The Treasury Department chairs the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, an interagency panel that reviews foreign investment for threats to national security.

A privately owned Chinese meat company, Shuanghui International, has offered to purchase Smithfield for $4.7 billion. 

The senators said they want USDA to be a lead agency in approving the purchase to ensure that food-safety is not compromised. The letter also asks for the Food and Drug Administration to be involved. Neither agency is typically involved in approving foreign purchases of U.S. companies.

Signatories of the letter included Democratic Ag Chairman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Ranking Member Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Centers for Disease Control

Cities that want to know what the future holds for obesity and diabetes diagnosis rates just need to look beyond the city limits to rural areas, says Daniel DeNoon in the Harvard Health Blog. DeNoon moderated a panel on rural health at the Association of Health Care Journalists last week in Birmingham. Rates of obesity and diabetes are higher in rural areas and throughout the South in the “Diabetes Belt.” Panelists pointed to barriers in rural areas that contribute to disease: limited access to healthcare, less diabetes education, fewer exercise and nutrition options and higher rates of poverty.

Tour De Nebraska. The Tour De Nebraska might not stack up to its French counterpart in regard to notoriety or length, but it is helping to boost the economy of the towns it passes through. The first leg of the tour ends in Loup City, a small town whose population increases by 20% with the addition of the riders.

Residents think this will lead to more tourism. “This is definitely an opportunity to present ourselves to a whole different demographic of individuals.” said Michael Eurek, the Sherman County economic development director. “We hope that this event shows us in a very favorable light and that we’re able to capitalize on not only the visit here today but then future visits.”

Paying for News. People are more willing to pay to get news on the Internet than they were in the past. An Oxford University survey shows that 11% of users in the United States and four northern European nations paid for online news in the past year. That’s an increase of about a third from the year before. Other nations had even higher rates of users who paid for access to online news.  The story was published in the Financial Times (yes, it’s available for free, but you have to register and you’ll have to pay to get more than eight articles a month).