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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Who put the crazy in the Tea Party and Safe Food?

I know people get worked up over legislation, but the blather coming from the tea baggers (sorry, err, Tea Party) is a bit over the top. Here are my favorite tweets of the week:

pl.taxday.272.cdb.jpg“You know what’s next after food safety? Socialism and shariah law. DEMINT FOR PRESIDENT.”

“Locals say Food Safety Modernization Act will devastate U.S. farmers”

“S 510, the Food Safety and Modernization Act. It will end organics! “

“When did food safety become a buzz word for control of the US people?”

S 510 “Another power grab! Against veg gardens?”

“S. 510 Would Grant the FDA New Powers 2 Criminalize Backyard Gardening, Imprison People who Sell Raw Milk.”

“510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, has been called “the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States”

“S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act vote imminent: Would outlaw gardening and saving seeds”

And, of course there is the King of Crazies, Glenn Beck, he has now figured out that he can scare people with food safety.

I am sure the same folks will simply love my quote in William Neuman’s article in the New York Times – “Small Cheesemaker Defies F.D.A. Over Recall:”

William Marler, a Seattle food safety lawyer, said it was clear that regulators tried to work with Ms. Estrella and that he was puzzled by the attitude that Ms. Estrella’s supporters appear to have toward the F.D.A. “I just don’t know how they make the leap from the government trying to do the right thing for public health to ‘they’re food Nazis in the pocket of big agribusiness.’ ”

So, can’t we stop being so crazy and actually talk?

  • Bix

    That’s a fine collection of quotations you have there.

  • Bix

    I just read that New York Times article about artisan cheese you linked to.
    I see both sides of the story. However, as food is produced in larger quantities and shipped longer distances, it allows harmful organisms to grow. This may not have been the case hundreds of years ago.
    Also, modern pathogens are proving more lethal than some older ones … such as the shiga toxin producing E. coli. Shiga toxin was first discovered in E. coli in 1977, or thereabouts. Factory farming took off in America in the 1960s. The close quarters and high sanitation needs of industrial livestock farms present an ideal environment for the viral infection and gene transfer that can turn an innocuous bacterium … like some E. coli … into a deadly one.
    All I’m saying is that today’s bacterial landscape is different than yesterday’s. And we need tools to protect the public in this unique environment.

  • Carl Custer

    A buddy after reading the post about Senator Coburn replied with this:
    “Why wasn’t Parnell hung up by his thumbs? Why aren’t the people who
    are paying him consulting $$$ now brought to light so consumers can
    know where NOT to spend their $$$? Why doesn’t anyone pay attention
    to these issues?”
    Humm, who is he consulting for?

  • Bill Anderson

    I would love to have a reasonable conversation with you Bill. But the problem is that you have such a narrow minded conception of food safety, it quickly becomes difficult and hostile.
    Let’s talk about food safety. The FDA has repeatedly ignored mounds of scientific evidence about the dangers of GMO foods. FDA continues to approve new GMOs and allow them on the market, even though they have never been proven as safe, and when there is considerable evidence of their dangers. There is reason that GMO’s are banned in almost every other first world nation.
    Factory farming methods of raising livestock present serious food safety issues. They breed organisms like pathogenic E. Coli. They are bad for overall human health.
    The industrial food system weakens our immune system, by feeding us nutrient-less sterile foods, thus making us more vulnerable to infection.
    I am all about food safety, just not YOUR narrow-minded germophobic, imperialist, corporate, industrial, soil-eroding, unsustainable type of food safety which ultimately just makes more sick and more vulnerable. I would tell you to QUESTION YOUR ASSUMPTIONS, but then I realized that the assumptions I am asking you to question are the basis of your career, so there is very little chance I will get you to change your mind.
    Yes, there are irreconcilable differences here. We are for humanity, health and the environment. You and FDA are for profit, power, and control.
    btw, I am most definitely NOT a tea-party follower, nor a fan of Glenn Beck.

  • Fair enough, good luck in your fantasy land.

  • Bill Anderson

    Excuse me? Fantasy land?
    Let’s talk about fantasies.
    It is a fantasy that we can totally eliminate all Listeria Monocytogenes from a food processing environment. (But we can kill all the beneficial good bacteria trying.)
    It is a fantasy that we can have a food supply that is 100% “safe”, by whatever definition you use to define food safety. There are always risk inherent in life, its just a matter of managing those risks.
    It is a fantasy that giving FDA (an agency which has clearly demonstrated it is beholden to big agribusiness on innumerable occasions) more power and authority is going to make our food supply any safer. Rather, it is only going to ensure that sustainable farms and processors that produce food for local consumers are further marginalized while industrial models of agriculture and food processing are further entrenched and consolidated, thus leading to an unhealthy populace more susceptible to illness.
    40,000 people die in automobile accidents every year, yet I don’t hear anyone calling for banning cars. Raw milk hasn’t killed anyone in over 30 years (though pasteurized milk has). Yet, why all the calls to ban raw milk from your side of the aisle? There’s only one logical explanation I can think of — profit. Cars are very profitable for big business (not just the manufacturers, but the oil companies too) raw milk is not. Let me know if you have a better explanation.
    The best defense against food pathogens is to 1) know where your food comes from, so you can ensure it is produced in an ethical, sustainable, holistic, and healthful way, and 2) Have a strong immune system, so if you do by chance come across campylobacter, salmonella, pathogenic E. Coli, or whatever new emerging super-pathogen our industrial food system is breeding, your body is able to prevent it from taking over and causing illness.
    That is reality. Your germophobic ideology to wage war on the microbial world is pure fantasy. Bacteria are our friends, they are not our enemies. You could not survive without bacteria. THAT is reality, Bill Marler.
    Your blind trust of FDA is a fantasy, though. Why no research into the Johnes-Crohns connection? Why continued denial that rBGH adversely affects the quality and safety of milk? Why continued denial that GMO phoods are risky and bad for health?
    Good luck in your fantasy world, trying to eliminate all potentially bad bacteria from the food supply. You are going to need it. The bacteria WILL win, I guarantee it.

  • Bill Anderson

    Also, just want to clarify (AGAIN) that I am not a fan of the tea party or Glenn Beck. I don’t know what the tea party has to do with any of this. As far as I can tell the tea party is a corporate-backed pseudo-populist mass-media spectacle.
    On the other hand, the movement for sustainable diversified agriculture and food sovereignty is a genuine democratic grassroots movement. And it is a global grassroots movement, not a nationalist American movement.
    We can’t help it if corporate media hacks like Glenn Beck try to capitalize on the movement. But I will say in unequivocal terms that Glenn Beck is a moron. I don’t care what he says. I’m still against SB510. It is food fascism.

  • There will be 9 billion people in the world Bill in 20 years. Are all going to dine as you do? Your black and white version of the world is not only boring but stupid. If you want to have a rational conversation call me. We have more in common than not, just different aproaches and a few decades differences in perspective.

  • Bill Anderson

    OK, I just saw your comment about 9 billion people. This is a classic retort from proponents of GMO, bio-tech, chemical intensive agribusiness. So obviously we all know which side of this you stand on.
    I don’t have the time to dig up all the statistics right now, but I will say this:
    Annual monoculture grain crops are one of the least effective and productive uses of land. Using all the chemicals and bio-tech GMO seeds may give you a higher yield for that particular crop, but it depletes the soil for future generations so the land will never be productive.
    Diversified permaculture is a highly productive system. It is just that its yields can’t be measured in dollars for agribusiness. The total yield of a diversified sustainable farm is much higher per-acre than a corn or soy field. Joel Salatin makes this point very eloquently on numerous occasions, far better than I ever could.
    A corn grower farms in 2 dimensions. A permaculturalist farms in 4 dimensions (north-south, east-west, up and down by utilizing all heights, and over years because perennial tree crops are the basis of the system, rather than annual crops)
    Industrial agriculture cannot feed the world. There are already several billions of starving people, even though we produce enough food to feed 12 billion today.
    Permaculture is the only way we can feed 9 billion people. There is plenty that has been written and researched about the imperative of developing a sustainable agriculture in order to feed the world. I don’t have the time to dig it all up right now.
    Good luck in your fantasy land, trying to grow food on barren soil, desertifed by annual GMO chemical intensive monocultures, and with your campaign to eliminate all bacteria from the food supply. You are going to need it!

  • So, what do you do with the surplus 5 billion people who are not eating your fine cheese and swilling your fine white wine?

  • Bill Anderson

    What a pompous jerk, Bill. What are you trying to imply about me?
    Believe it or not, I’m not filthy rich like you.
    I eat what is available locally and seasonally. I grow and process much of my own food. I even brew my own beer when I have time. I don’t drink wine because its not part of my local food system. I do enjoy a good hard cider though, with my raw milk cheese. Pasteurization is too expensive for me. I can’t afford an unnecessary luxury like high-tech pasteurization systems and GMO biotech drugs.
    How do you intend to feed the world when less than 2% of the population is involved in food production? That is a serious problem, Bill Marler. You seem to think that sustainable agriculture means expensive and unproductive. This just show how brainwashed and dependent upon that system you really are. Modern agriculture is extremely expensive in comparison, when you consider all the costs that are state-subsidized and externalized. Having many diversified small farms that produce food for their local communities is a far more effective way to feed the world than having a few huge industrial farms that ship food thousands of miles away.
    Your industrial food system can’t feed the world. It already has proven this, and has led to mass starvation. People need to be empowered to feed themselves, rather than made dependent on western imperialist corporate industrial agriculture.
    You really are part of the problem, not part of the solution, Bill Marler.

  • Young Bill, I have been called a lot worse – some by you – but mostly by the Big ag players that you rail against and for whom you think I do their bidding (along with being a hack for the FDA and FSIS, etc). It is really time for you to grow up. Your dream of everyone moving back to the farm I grew up on is never, ever going to happen. And, then there is China and India rapidly growing and expanding their middle class. I just got back from my 4th trip to China. They want their share of resources and will not be denied.
    With a rapidly aging and growing population, mass food production is here to stay. I fight the battles that I can (see my latest post on Hep A vaccines) and help the people I represent – nearly everyone sickened by Big ag with a few raw milk farmers in the mix. I understand far better than you the problems with the FDA and FSIS. Do I think they are always right, no. Are they right on Estrella, yes they are. Have I done battle with them on several topics, yes. Do I believe that corporations have far too much influence, hell yes.
    Do I think that a oil based/corn based food system is stupid, yes. Do I think that we need a rapid move to a sustainable and ecological sound food system, yes. Do I think you yelling at me or spouting your unrealistic version of reality will solve that, no. Perhaps you are not a tea bagger, but you really are no different in how you approach problems. Yelling, name calling and playing victim – perhaps you are the different side of the same coin.
    The families that I represent do not have the luxury to ignore reality or wait until permaculture rules supreme and we all are happily living next door to Polyface Farm with ponies and unicorns. They have to deal with being poisoned by foods produced primarily by Big ag. They can not wait for your perfect solution.
    So, keep yelling and calling people names. You will get nowhere except inside your head. You will solve no problems and accomplish nothing. If you someday want to have a rational conversation, my direct line is 1-206-346-1890.

  • Bill Anderson

    Since you travel so much, can you tell me if there is any other nation on earth which has zero-tolerance for listeria monocytogenes in all RTE foods, regardless of pH, moisture, salt, or shelf stability? I’m genuinely interested.
    Once again, I will repeat: Understanding food law does not mean you understand food science.
    You seem to think that by passing laws to better regulate big ag, there is going to be no adverse impact on small producers. History and experience tells us this is not true, and quite the contrary, that these laws will NOT be used to persecute the largest big ag producers AT ALL, but instead be turned against the smallest producers.
    IT reminds me of how the Sherman anti-trust act, intended to be used against the industrial monopolies of the late 19th century, WAS FIRST USED AGAINST ORGANIZED LABOR.
    Funny that we still have huge problems with monopolies, ESEPCIALLY in the dairy industry, but the government refuses to do anything. Yet when a farmer is selling raw milk, OH BOY we better make sure we send in the state troopers to put a stop to that.
    You are very very wrong about Estrella and Morningland. Since you travel so much, one would think you are familiar with the history of Lanark Blue Cheese in the UK, where the government’s finding of listeria nearly put a small raw milk cheese maker out of business.
    Here’s one account:
    Thankfully, he fought tooth and nail against them, and eventually won. It is sad that we have to fight so hard against your ilk just for the basic right to eat and make traditional food.
    Take note of the final sentence in the description of the cheesemaker’s battle with the Scottish health authorities:
    “The Clydesdale District Council [food safety authorities] steadfastly maintained that they had taken correct actions, and that court action would never have been necessary if Mr Errington had voluntarily complied.”
    You are WRONG about SB510, and about Morningland and Estrella, Bill Marler. Now can you tell me, is there any other nation on earth with has zero tolerance for Listeria Monocytogenes in ALL RTE foods?

  • Granted Bill, I am not a food scientist nor a 25 year old cheese maker. I also have no idea if other countries do or do not have zero tolerance for listeria in ready to eat foods. I do however have quite a bit experience with people who died and women who lost babies due to listeria – I have zero tolerance for that. Do you?
    Re S 510 – I have worked hard to include concerns of small and local farmers and the Tester/Hagen Amendment has been included with some modifications. Other than bitch from the sidelines, what have you done?
    As for your favorite producers of listeria – and cheese – I hope they clean-up and are able to keep selling their products.

  • Charlie

    I suppose the large Ag firms publicly supporting the bill are doing so because it will really hold their feet to the fire….
    PS… Marler, You’re one cocky little attorney there, padna. Poor manners for an educated man.

  • Big ag has pulled their support of the Bill, so I think that says something, Poor manners to you, telling the truth to me.

  • Doc Mudd

    Was it the word “crazy” in the title that attracted them? Geez…

  • L.E. Peterson

    I don’t recall seeing anything in FDA or USDA literature that calls for zero-tolerance on Listeria in processed foods. Would someone kindly point me in that direction? I know for a fact that it’s not in the USDA regs unless Listeria suddenly became the same thing as fecal matter, milk or intestinal contents. As far as FDA goes, couldn’t find a dang think myself other than some non-binding “guidelines”.

    HACCP is not meant to eliminate bacteria entirely. The wording in the USDA mega rule is “PATHOGEN REDUCTION” and the regulations are in place to ensure that the companies take measures to do that. Not a word said about pathogen elimination.

    So the million dollar question today is “Will young Bill take up Mr. Marler on the invite to call his direct line to discuss food safety?”

    I vote no–Young Bill doesn’t seem particularly interested in hearing what Mr. Marler has to say as he ignores many important points and only goes after the ones most disagreeable to him. I think Mr. Marler has been remarkably restrained as many blog owners would just block him from their sites but Mr. Marler continues to let him have his voice. I commend that. It’s important to hear all sides of an issue in order to begin a dialogue that will ultimately reach an acceptable conclusion for all.

  • Shigella

    Bill Anderson, thank you for capitalizing specific epithets in latin names. It is a good red flag for the rest of us and makes it unnecessary to refudiate your statements or misunderestimate what you are saying.

  • JOE