10/08/2005

JS Online: Thompson resigns Cabinet post

Washington - Tommy Thompson, in announcing Friday that he will leave the Department of Health and Human Services, warned that America's food supply is vulnerable to terrorism.

The former Wisconsin governor, addressing reporters, raised eyebrows when he remarked: "I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do. And we're importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."

He said the number of inspections of imported food had risen 98,000 from 12,000 during his tenure but "it's still a very minute amount that we're doing."

Thompson, 63, spoke while announcing that he would stay in his post until Feb. 4 or until a successor is named. The eighth cabinet official to leave after George W. Bush's first term, he tendered a resignation letter Friday "with gratitude and regret."

Bush, in a statement, saluted Thompson for Medicare reform, fighting AIDS here and abroad, enhancing community health centers and advancing the use of health information technology. He also called him a "stalwart member of my homeland security team," for contributions against bioterrorism.

Kevin W. Keane, a spokesman for Thompson, said the secretary had not intended to make surprising statements at the news conference, but simply "went with the flow," offering candid responses to a wide range of questions.

Before leaving office, Keane said, Thompson wants to issue a plan to "beef up our ability to review the safety of drugs after they have been approved."

JS Online: Thompson resigns Cabinet post

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