Republican Senator: Government Shouldn’t Make Food Servers Wash Hands

thom tillis

The folly of free market fundamentalism was illustrated clearly on Monday, when North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis revealed that he thinks restaurants should be able to opt out of regulations requiring employees to wash their hands. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends hand washing to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses caused by fecal and oral pathogens. However, Thom Tillis wants to take hand washing out of the legal realm and leave it up to the invisible hand of the free market.

Tillis’ bizarre argument embodies everything that is wrong with the most extreme libertarian arguments. They eliminate sensible regulations to protect public health, and replace them with naive dogma that presumes that an unfettered free market will magically fix all society’s problems. All that is needed to create a utopia, overflowing with liberty, is for the government to get out of the way. In this simplistic worldview, government regulations become the enemy. Even simple, non-controversial regulations like requiring food servers and handlers to wash their hands after using the toilet, need to be discarded.

Tillis sees government mandated hand washing as an unfair burden on employers. Sure foodborne illness is unpleasant. However, if a few thousand people get ill from Listeria, Salmonella or Hepatitis A, eventually customers will stop eating bad food and the restaurants responsible will have to declare bankruptcy. In GOP fantasy land, prevention is not an option, but after a few food poisoning casualties, the consumer revolt will eventually win the day. So what if a few kids die with E-coli in their intestines along the way? That is just collateral damage in the battle for freedom from burdensome government regulations.

Tillis’ expressed his astonishing point of view glibly, stating:

I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this (hand washing) policy as long as they post a sign that says we don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom. The market will take care of that. It’s one example.

Of course, if he wants to require a restaurant to put up a sign, isn’t that also a regulation? Why not just go the extra step and actually require hand washing then?

On Tuesday, Tillis was given an opportunity to recant or clarify his remarks. Rather than saying he doesn’t really think restaurants should be able to legally have food servers handle your lunch after using the bathroom, without first washing their hands, Tillis doubled down on his anti-regulatory rhetoric. On Tuesday, Tillis proclaimed:

Sometimes there are regulations that maybe we want to set a direction, but then let those who are regulated decide whether or not it makes sense.

So basically Tillis’ position is that restaurants should choose their own regulations. Brilliant idea, Thom. Presumably, coal mines, factories and chicken processing plants should also be able to decide which regulations they deem necessary. Never mind public safety or public health, let the market decide. This is the folly of conservative regulatory logic. It puts the dirty hands of the market in your food, arguing that the government has no business telling the cook at your local diner that he or she must wash his hands before preparing your meal.

Sorry, Mr. Tillis, but my right to eat safe food trumps any company’s right to let their employees make my sandwich with fecal matter on their hands, simply because they don’t like government regulations. Anti-government rhetoric remains popular with conservative voters. However, when anti-regulatory politicians like Thom Tillis abandon common sense in favor of dogmatic ideology, it endangers public health. Honestly, the idea that company’s should be able to opt out of basic sanitation requirements is not only patently absurd, it is also just plain gross.

40 Replies to “Republican Senator: Government Shouldn’t Make Food Servers Wash Hands”

  1. There’s some times where you just throw up your hands and say, “okay, I’m done.” WHY are these people elected and re-elected. Why…..

  2. would you shake hands with someone that doesn’t feel obliged to wash is hands after peeing on them or wiping after a bout of diarrhea?

    I’m pretty sure this dumbass doesn’t hand out cards or have a sign hanging in his office that says he doesn’t feel obligated to wash his hands…

  3. E…Col…i…! (Sung to the once popular “Recola” throat lozenges commercial.)


    Seriously…YOU CAN’T FIX STUPID.

    (But you can sedate it.)

  4. I just want to know why so many of these Republicans have their heads up their a**! God knows why anybody votes for these idiots!!!!!

  5. First, I apologize for this Idiot from my state. Second, I obviously didn’t vote for this fool. Third, I would be ashamed if I were a Rethuglicant.

  6. Let’s expand on his theory… Without regulations, a major corporation could save millions of dollars every year by eliminating (Yes, pun intended) restrooms and placing buckets in the work area.

    If someone gets injured by tripping over a bucket or ill from exposure to the raw sewage, the corporate shield laws would protect the corporation while possibly costing the workers their jobs and everyone exposed, including customers, their health or even lives.

    Sounds like there is no downside to me.


  7. This gives one a far greater understanding of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware). Maybe Caveat Civis (citizen beware) should be used by a greater number of voters.

  8. Please offer him food from someone with E Coli or salmonella so that he can enjoy the benefits of having food service workers not wash their hands. I worked on the cultures from the wide spread salmonella outbreak in Illinois during the 80’s.

  9. Never mind that Theodore Roosevelt and Harvey Washington Wiley were both republicans. GOP is not against common sense sanitary regulations.

  10. Well, the next meal he should get from the Senate Food Court (or whatever they use), the workers should not wash their hands. Better yet, one of them should have something that could be transmissible through the air.

    This way, our dear friend here can find out for himself that hand washing is a good thing.

  11. I had a relative once who proclaimed he did not believe in ‘the germ theory of disease’. He caught salmonella from his less than stellar sanitation at home, and he died.

    So be it.

  12. Theodore Roosevelt (tree hugger) was also a staunch environmentalist who established our National Parks system.

    Teddy R would have as much of a chance getting nominated as a Republican (conservative teabagger) today as Lincoln (reverse racist) or Eisenhower (anti-business, anti-military [i.e against the military industrial complex], tax and spend liberal) would.

  13. What’s annoying is he used Starbucks as the example- (latte sipping, hot tub soaking liberals) I guess. In reality, the libertarian Whole Foods CEO would be a better example or Papa Johns or Chick-Fillet. I understand that Chick-Fillet workers aren’t allowed to have long fingernails – I wonder if they are allowed to not wash the hands their fingernails are attached to. Get government off their backs!

  14. People actually vote these people into office to make our laws. Unbelievable! No wonder the rest of the world is shaking their heads over the political choices Americans are making lately. What the he** is in our water that so many people are stupid enough to vote in these kinds of people. It’s not just Texas anymore. They’re all over.

  15. — NEWFLASH for “Typhoid Thom” —

    Your fellow Teabagger surgeon is so enamored of your “NO HANDWASHING BECAUSE … FREEDUMB!” idea that he’s adopting it.

    Good luck with your next operation, Thom!

  16. Now you know why North Carolina is ranked 48th in support (teachers) for education. Tillis and Virginia Foxx REALLY represent the future of North Carolina. It won’t be good! The people of NC have the right to remain stupid.

  17. To see just how much the Republican Party has become decadent and depraved, one need only compare the 1956 Gop pPartyplatform to today. The went from soft C conservatives into a cult of social dawinism, Ayn Rand hatred of the poor, racists wackjobs, warmongering halfwits. Lincoln, TR, and Eisenhower would be appalled and embarrassed to call themselves Republican.

  18. The corporate greedy Re-PIG-Licans are always happy to sacrifice the well being and safety for the wage earning and very poor people just to make themselves richer and create an extreme right wing DICTATORSHIP where THEIR leaders, the filthy rich owners of huge corporations and extreme Christo-Fascist religious leaders are billionaires living like kings and the rest of us are living in abject poverty and die young from overwork and communicable diseases, especially those from food contaminated by restaurant workers who never wash their hands.

  19. I wonder if Tillis would feel the same about surgeons. Or dentists. Or bank tellers handing him bills soaked with fecal matter.

  20. This numbskull, no doubt, does not feel the need to wash his hands. If he did, he would never suggest that it not be required. I once worked with a girl who boldly made the statement, “as long as I don’t touch, I don’t always wash my hands”. It is quite obvious that republicans are dumb. His wife ought to floss his arse with barb wire for being so stupid. He’s an embarrassment.

  21. If the Senate dinning room workers do not have to wash their hands, it will also save on water and paper towels!
    And maybe when Mr Tillis and his chronies die of diarrhea, we can get replacement who actually have brains

  22. So requiring a business to put up a sign saying that employees are not required to wash their hands after using the restroom isn’t too much government regulation, but requiring them to wash their hands is too much government regulation? I wonder if this rectal-cranial inverted idiot knows the definition of the word IRONY?

  23. The fact that you have to go all the way back to 1908 to find a sane Republican does make a point, but not the one you think you are making. If Teddy Roosevelt was on the ballot, I would consider voting for him, but he hasn’t run for office in over a century.

  24. Of course, the troll actually knows this. He just thinks we’re dumb enough to actually get duped by his BS.

  25. Why do they get elected and reelected? Because of voter apathy. Either people don’t bother to vote or they just look for who is in office now and vote for them.

    WORSE are the folks who vote a straight ticket.


  26. That dumb knuckle dragger was the reason I fled back north to NJ. I’d prefer Menendez and Booker.

    A little bit sh!t on your cook’s hands is good for the soul!

  27. I saw this interview. Tillis actually said that IF (a business) posted a sign stating their employees were not required to wash hands after using the rest room then people would not patronize that business.

    In other words, the free market would:
    a: put them out of business, or
    b: the owners would, after seeing their revenues decline, require employees to wash hands, thus saving the business.

    Tillis’s point was that the free market and personal choice are much better at making decisions than big government.

    But, as usual, troglodyte liberals have missed the point entirely. Worse, in their ignorance of the facts, have twisted them around to spew more baneful propaganda.

  28. Since you won’t be quiet and go Holme, I will say only that an epidemic of typhoid, cholera, dysentery, amebiasis, or a score of other communicable diseases could be afoot by the time the free market ever operates. Epidemics, I point out, have always brought on extreme and draconian government control.

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