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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Ideas for Washington D.C.

I posted a request for ideas to present while I am in Washington D.C. to the Foodsafe listserve.  Foodsafe is an industry-supported discussion group to connect those interested in food safety to each other, and to information. The sender is responsible for content. For archives or to unsubscribe from the list, go to http://www.foodsafetyweb.info/foodsafe. For questions or problems, contact the list owner at FOODSAFE-request@LISTS.FOODSAFETYWEB.INFO.

Here were some ideas:

1. Don’t let the Congress get bogged down in the single food safety agency quagmire. However, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Academy of Sciences have supported it.
2. Place produce (and animal) growing under some food authority (e.g., USDA-APHIS).
3. Make HACCP mandatory for the produce processing industry.
4. Require FDA Risk Assessment for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in produce.
5. Require FDA surveillance of produce with associated recalls.
6. Encourage Congress to seek mandatory post-processing treatment of fresh produce that has been implicated in outbreaks. This could be any effective treatment – irradiation, chemicals, electrolyzed water, etc. Don’t try to make it produce-wide, as regulating before a proven problem is tough and widens the opposition.
7. Get money for research into ways of protecting growing crops from contamination caused by wild animals (birds, deer) or nearby livestock (cattle, hogs, chickens).
8. Get money for research that addresses item #6 above. We need to get the effective interventions rapidly approved for use.
9. The FDA is both significantly under funded in the food area and in the midst of a terrible “brain drain.” Congress needs to fully fund an expansion of FDA’s food activities and urge the Commissioner to try to keep what’s left of the Agency’s institutional knowledge.
10. Avoid writing a law that would allow defendants to argue Federal Preemption – make sure they preserve the private right of action.
11. That they require all those who import food products into the US to have insurance and to consent to jurisdiction of US courts and to accept service of process by certified mail.
12. Traceability in the food supply is something that Congress could and should mandate.

Any other ideas?  Comments?

  • Bill

    A few more late additions:
    – Determining how these recent outbreaks actually happened and what can be done to prevent or limit the next one.
    – Increasing funding for university-based research, health department epidemiological surveillance, and prevention of bacterial and viral contamination.
    – Pre-consumption bacterial and viral testing of raw food products, especially those where no “kill step” is expected.
    – “Zero tolerance” for E. coli.
    – Making mandatory good agricultural and food handling practices.
    – Consider the proposal to create a single federal agency charged with ensuring the nation’s food safety, whether the food is grown within the United States or in foreign countries.
    And More:
    1) Fund research, not only for sources of contamination, but to determine whether or to what
    extent farming and processing practices contribute to the problem, for example whether irrigation
    practices or produce washing practices contribute to biofilm formation or the absorption of
    2) I agree that underfunding /understaffing of the FDA is a huge problem and primary, but it
    would be helpful to bring attention to that same problem in local health departments. From what I
    see, most programs have 1/4 to 1/2 of the people required to do the job. Also, there is a serious
    lack of inspectional quality control at the local level. Most departments focus on the number of
    inspections instead of the quality; this is partly due to lack of personnel, but also to a lack of
    knowledge about performence metrics.
    3) Create more FoodNet sites. The reason the produce problem is being addressed is because of
    outbreak identification and investigation. I also agree that local investigation quality and capacity
    need to be addressed, but I believe that might take more time than adding more FoodNet sites.
    4) I agree that the creation of one overarching foodsafety agency may be a good idea in theory but
    problematic in execution and will not help in the solution of the produce problem. If and when
    such an agency is created, I believe it is imperative that it be a public health agency.

  • SvT