— A few years ago I had a chance to travel to Petaluma, California as a private citizen on personal business. Little did I know and hardly could I have imagined what might be going on there in the processing and preparation of the food that I and thousands of others would potentially make meals. At the time of my travel there, I, like countless Americans, ate meat.

Although I no longer eat meat, my stomach now churns at recent revelations of food contamination coming from a Petaluma processor. A CNN exclusive recently reported that a meat processing plant in California was buying diseased dairy cows and processing them when government inspectors weren’t there. CNN received this information from responsible federal government officials. After the cows were killed, employees at Rancho Feeding Corporation, based in Petaluma, would hide the warning signs of cancer by trimming off diseased parts, using a fake stamp of approval or even replacing the heads of sick cows with ones from healthy animals, according to the officials.

A principled employee at the plant risked retaliation and retribution by revealing these activities. This tip led to a federal investigation and the recall of nearly 9 million pounds of meat processed by Rancho Feeding Corporation. We’ll never know how many pounds of the diseased meat had already been eaten by unsuspecting consumers, but the thought of eating this offending meat still leaves me concerned for my health and safety, and that of other consumers.

Fortunately, I don’t eat meat anymore. I took what I consider to be the responsible course of action and stopped eating meat after reading about the horrible way animals are killed and the frequent questionable sanitary measures used to prepare meat for sale. Rancho Feeding Corporation may be the current interest of government inspectors, but I’m sure this isn’t the only company that needs government oversight to keep them honest. This is an obvious circumstance of the necessity of government oversight to keep not only meat, but all of our food, uncontaminated.

Lately, we’ve heard the news of diseased bananas, diseased oranges and a myriad of other questionable commodities marketed as food. In our recent past, we’ve experienced poison grapes. We’ve also suffered under the threat of poison lettuce and poison chickens. It seems that every few weeks we hear about contaminated milk, diseased cows, toxins in the water we drink and in the air we breathe.

As inconvenient as some think government regulations may be, I shudder to think where we would be without them! I want the government to inspect the food I eat and impose regulatory requirements on all those who offer products for public consumption.

Although many citizens are unaware of, ignore or refute the authority of the government, it has a constitutionally mandated responsibility to “provide for the general welfare.” Including, but not limited to military defense, no constitutional scholar that I know would interpret that phrase to mean anything except that the government has the responsibility to assure that citizens are protected from enemies – foreign and domestic – even those motivated by avarice and greed.

Let’s not forget why we have Child Labor Laws, Civil and Voting Rights Laws, Highway Safety Laws, Fair Housing Laws, Transportation Laws, Clean Air and Clean Water Laws, and the list goes on. The government has always had to intervene to work for solutions to keep our citizens healthy and safe from those who would sacrifice their well-being to “the god of profitability”.

Those who argue that they want government out of their lives never seem to mind when they benefit. We cannot allow ourselves to fall victim to those who would convince us that government is in unequivocal opposition to our interests.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is Chair of the National Congress of Black Women. 202/678-6788