Although his first month in office has been wracked with controversial legislative changes, Donald Trump has been largely quiet on food policy. In the past, he criticized the FDA as “food police” but new leaked video footage shows Trump’s keen interest in using food safety as leverage in the international community.
The phone conversation between Trump and Wilbur Ross, his nominee for Commerce Secretary, took place on December 13. The footage, which was leaked to Gizmodo by a whistleblower, discusses the possibility of using food safety polices to pressure foreign governments into trade deals:
“TRUMP: If you look at Japan, what they do with food — they say it’s not clean enough, and you have to send it back, and by the time it comes back it’s all gone.
ROSS: Exactly. And we oughta let them know we’re gonna start playing the same game.
TRUMP: Well I think you let them know that we’re going to do that. Without saying that, you say, “We’re gonna inspect you so closely,” bomp bomp.
ROSS: Yeah. That’s the thing — not to say that it’s punitive, but in the interest of American safety.”
The conversation seems to suggest that Trump is more interested in carefully inspecting food imports to provide leverage against trading partners than in promoting food safety for its own sake.