In the December recording, obtained by Gizmodo, the then president-elect and Wilbur Ross, now newly confirmed commerce secretary, discuss the merits of using safety regulations on imported foods as a way to pressure foreign governments.
Here's a snippet of the recording, according to Gizmodo:
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.
Their phone conversation was captured on video, and given to Gizmodo by an anonymous whistleblower, the news outlet reports. While the video doesn't show Trump or Ross, both their voices are audible on the taped recording.
As Gizmodo points out, imported foods do run a higher risk of food-borne illness—but even that rise accounts for just five percent of food poisoning in the U.S. (Those are 2014 numbers, and they're up just about one percent from the 1990s.)
Yet while Trump may be eager to tighten restrictions on foreign foods, he's seemed reluctant to do so on domestic products. In fact, during his campaign, the president professed his trust (and adoration) of fast food, and promised to ease food safety regulations as part of his tax plan.
Rolling back food safety regulations can have dire consequences, as Georgia all-too-well knows. In 2006, Gizmodo reports, the state cut its food safety budget by 29 percent—and within two years, at least 714 in 46 states were ill because salmonella had contaminated peanut paste in one of its factories. Nine people died.