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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

IF there was an USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety this is what they should be doing

Marler’s Baker’s Dozen

1. Tattoo on a body part that you use everyday FSIS’s Mission Statement:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

2. Push for tax credits for workable food safety innovations for small, medium and large producers and support small and medium sized agriculture by growing local and regional markets for meat.

3. Meet with all major purchasers of meat, poultry and eggs (governments, ‘big box’ stores, fast food chains and retailers) and develop product specifications that mandate food safety and sustainability at a fair price.

4. Visit victims of foodborne illness outbreaks and bring along key FSIS staffers and industry leaders. Visit people like the parents of Abby Fenstermaker:

E. coli Victim: Abby Fenstermaker from Marlerclark on Vimeo.

5. Develop uniform cooking, handling and labeling instructions that actually provide helpful guidance to the public (in contrast, for example, the suggestion to “cook thoroughly”).

6. Enforce a real zero-tolerance policy for E. coli O157:H7, non-O157 EHEC’s and all other antibiotic resistance bacteria on all meats.

7. Conduct meaningful sampling and surveillance at farms, slaughter facilities and retail to determine the real prevalence of all pathogens and provide that data to the public.

8. Post all Non-compliance Report (NR’s), product test results, other enforcement documents at manufacturing operations online in real-time (like restaurant health inspections are).

9. Create manufacturer quality certifications to aid consumers in making safe choices, and allow companies to capture price premiums for higher quality.

10. Increase food inspections. While domestic production has continued to be a problem, imports pose an increasing risk, especially if terrorists were to get into the act. Points of export and entry are a logical place to step up monitoring. We need more inspectors – domestically and abroad.

11. Make better use of our technology to ensure traceability of all food so that when an outbreak occurs authorities can quickly identify the source and limit the spread of the contamination and stop the disruption to the economy.

12. Improve surveillance of bacterial and viral diseases; First responders – ER physicians and local doctors – need to be encouraged to test for pathogens and report findings directly to local and state health departments and the CDC promptly.

13. Fire any FSIS employee that would believe and/or be quoted saying anything like:

“I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health.”

I am sure there are other ideas and even better ideas – If there was an Undersecretary of Food Safety I would suggest you email those to him or her.

  • Jane

    Unbelievable that a government bureaucrat would put industry’s interests before public health. A citation would be useful–thanks! This is a good list. I would add to it : report annually on all cases of food-borne illness and their sources. This kind of information is difficult to find. CDC classifies food-borne illness by type of pathogen, not type of food consumed. It is very difficult to document that fact that the #1 source by far of food-borne illness in the U.S. is meat. Statistics that are readily available have been interpreted even by sust ag advocates as showing that produce is the largest source of food-borne illness. This is not true–however actual data are difficult to find. Please make these data more accessible so consumers can accurately weight the risks of the food choices they are making.

  • Christopher

    A solution you don’t mention is the elephant in the room: eat less eggs, dairy and meat. Or eat none at all.
    I’ve been vegan for almost 4 years now, and it’s the healthiest thing I’ve done in my life.
    Obviously, there are still food safety issues from foods derived from non-animal products. But it would be a win-win for us and the animals we could spare so much suffering, I think, if vegan food choices were taken more seriously by the public and public health authorities.