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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Clinton Unveils Food Safety Plan – Have I Missed Obama’s?

Like most Democrats who could be happy (I donated to both) with either Obama (my wife is a delegate) or Clinton, I must admit after reading this Clinton Press Release last night, I would like to hear from the Obama camp.

Hillary Clinton Unveils Food Safety Plan

By: Hillary Clinton for President

Following the largest beef recall in our nation’s history, Hillary Clinton highlighted a series of food safety proposals she would pursue as President. This recall is not an isolated case – it is yet another troubling reminder that our food supply is at risk. Each year, tens of millions of Americans contract food-borne illnesses every year; hundreds of thousands are hospitalized; and thousands die. And the risks are only growing. Last year alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversaw 21 recalls related to E. coli in meat, compared with just eight in 2006. One of those recalls involved more than 20 million pounds of ground beef that caused nearly 100 illnesses in the United States and Canada. In addition, yesterday’s recall by Hallmark/Westland is the second-largest supplier to the U.S. School Lunch program and a substantial supplier to other federal food and nutrition initiatives.

Hillary believes that American families should not have to worry about the safety of food on their dinner tables or in their children’s school lunches. That is why she has proposed common-sense – and long-overdue – food safety reforms, building on her work in the Senate. As President, she will:

Immediately conduct a thorough audit of our nation’s food safety systems to locate weaknesses and gaps. The current recall raises a number of questions, including how USDA failed to detect violations at the Hallmark/Westland plant and what steps USDA will take to ensure that all of the meat is removed from grocery stores and school cafeterias. Hillary will seek a report with recommendations on immediate and long-term reforms.

Increase USDA food safety funding by more than 50% so that our inspectors have the resources and staffing they need to do their jobs. USDA conceded that the cattle involved in this recall "did not receive complete and proper inspection." This year, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will have a budget of $930 million. Much of that money goes to fund 7,800 inspectors responsible for inspecting 6,200 slaughterhouses and food processors across the nation. Hillary will move over time to increase that budget to $1.5 billion and to bolster the inspection force.

Move toward a single Food Safety Administration responsible for all food products, with strong authorities to protect consumers. Hillary will work to centralize our nation’s food safety efforts in one agency, so that multiple bodies are not policing imports and setting separate standards. Right now, 15 agencies administer more than 30 laws related to food safety. The result is overlap, gaps, and waste. At times, our system is downright bizarre. For example, a ham and cheese sandwich on one slice of bread is the responsibility of the USDA. But a ham and cheese sandwich on two slices of bread is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Hillary believes that the current regulatory system is broken and that we can only meet the challenges we face through a single agency that uses a uniform system of tracing and inspection to ensure the highest standards of safety and quality from food’s origin to it consumption.

Give our safety agencies mandatory recall authority and direct them to create a national tracing system so we can determine the origin of tainted food.
Hillary will authorize the FDA and USDA to mandate recalls of tainted products. Right now, the FDA and USDA lack mandatory recall authority. And the Government Accountability Office has found that current food recall systems have additional severe flaws: (1) FDA and USDA are often unaware of how promptly and completely companies carry out recalls; (2) FDA and USDA do not promptly confirm that recalls have made it all the way down the distribution chain; and (3) public notification procedures are often ineffective. Hillary will direct the new food safety agency to address these shortcomings. She will also direct the new food safety agency to establish an integrated national traceback system to help regulators trace food products and ingredients from their point of sale back to their origin. At present, there are gaps in our ability to determine the source of unsafe food and animal feed, which hinders efforts to control outbreaks and curb them before they spread. We must ensure that we have adequate tracking and monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure the health of our livestock, our farmers and our consumers nationwide.

Find, prosecute, and punish food production facilities that abuse animals and allow unsafe food to enter our food supply. Hillary will strengthen safety rules and increase civil and criminal penalties for violations of federal food safety regulations. She will direct federal prosecutors to aggressively crack down on offending companies. And she will also make it illegal for companies to violate recall requirements, and impose severe civil and criminal penalties for violations.

Ban the slaughter of downed animals.
Part of ensuring that we have a safe food supply is making sure sick and injured animals are humanely euthanized, not slaughtered and put into the food supply. Twelve of the 15 cases of mad cow disease in North America were linked to downed animals. Downed animals are also three times more likely to carry E. coli, and according to one analysis presented at the American Meat Institute conference, 14% of downed cows carried salmonella. After the mad cow disease scare in 2003, the USDA put in place a temporary ban of the slaughter of downer animals, but a 2006 investigation by the USDA Inspector General revealed that the ban has not been well enforced and that more than two dozen downed animals were allowed into the food supply over a nine-month period. Americans need to have confidence in our meat suppliers, and the current temporary ban must be made permanent. As President, Hillary will impose and strictly enforce a permanent ban on the inhumane practice of slaughtering downed animals and putting them in the food supply.

I think she has been reading my blog perhaps?  Also, I still might be available for "Food Safety Czar" – if anyone asks.

  • Bix

    I have no doubt her campaign reads your blog. It is *the* food safety hub on the web.
    Her turnaround on this is spectacular. Bodes well for her among people who care about food safety.
    Many of the points she raised are outlined (but not fleshed out, as she is doing) in the Safe Food Act:
    HR 1148
    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-1148
    S 654
    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-654
    I like how she adds to and molds the legislation based on needs and circumstances.

  • Bill, Didn’t you know? You ARE the Food Safety Czar!

  • dr butterweck

    I will be your assistant czar. I have lots of experience with creditinals. For now we need a strategy. Mine, to keep it short, is use the MAD principle.
    M money. need to reduce expendures to put a stop to all the studies. 10 % budgert for food safety reduction
    A authority. need to get more of the managers out in the field if no more than to fill tasks of the inspectors as needed. The agencies are too top heavy.
    Desire..need to stick to it umtil we have a positive outcome. In the past we have not ben serious
    You do relize that most food safety is perception?
    Joseph Butterweck, DVM, MD
    Fresno, CA
    haccp@aemgroup.net