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Government agencies need to work hand-in-hand

I don't normally watch congressional or senate hearings on television. I am just not that interested in those kinds of debates.

I would much rather find out what happened in such hearings from watching the news, having a summarization presented via the air waves.

However, last week I did have an opportunity in which I watched hearings regarding the recent salmonella outbreak. Various entities went before congress with concerns on how the outbreak was handled. There were discussions regarding the impact on tomato farmers and those who contracted salmonella via salsa.

What disgusted me most is the fact that the federal agencies had representatives testify to the fact that the local and state health experts and food inspectors do not share information with the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration or any other federal entity.

Health officials on the local level are the first to obtain data regarding diseases and infections. In Washington state, we have the Washington State Department of Agriculture monitoring our food.

But, according to the federal agencies, officials from agencies such as the Yakima Health District or Washington Department of Agriculture do not share data with the feds.

This boggles my mind. When a major disease or illness suddenly appears, I want every agency working on it immediately.

I want them to share information so that the data doesn't have to be collected "from the ground up," costing invaluable time and taxpayer money.

I feel all these agencies are in place to serve the taxpayers. They should act as though they are public servants, not secret agents of some top secret entity.

I think something that could serve the good of populations nationwide would be networking between the agencies. Perhaps, shared software or interfacing between the agencies would cut a lot of time out of investigating incidents such as the salmonella outbreak.

Timelines were provided to the committee overseeing the congressional hearings regarding the salmonella outbreak. And, each time, I heard officials report the various steps of investigation took days.

If information was shared among the various agencies, I think weeks could have been saved and lives would have been saved in the process.

The impact on tomato farmers could have been lessened, but one official said, "It's proprietary information."

To me, it is no different than the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency and all other federal investigative agencies prior to Sept. 11, 2001 were not sharing information.

As long as the taxpayers are dolling out the money, I say work together and help each other...because, by doing so, you are helping those whom you serve.

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