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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Tougher Regulation of State’s Produce Industry?

More thoughts on yesterday’s hearing:

I have concerns despite the 4 deaths and over 200 illnesses that some politicians may simply fiddle while more spinach and lettuce is grown and more customers are sickened and more businesses go bankrupt (watch for that next).  Yesterday’s hearing was more telling by who did not attend – most of the committee, DOLE, Natural Selection (under FBI investigation), the FDA and the CDC.  Frankly, I don’t think those that chose to ignore in the need for intervention have a plan to save customers or themselves.  See the story in the LA Times by Rong-Gong Lin II, Times Staff Writer

A couple of telling quotes:

  • Of the 20 lettuce or spinach outbreaks linked to a virulent and potentially deadly strain of E. coli since 1995, nine have been traced to the Salinas Valley area, one of the nation’s largest producers of the leafy greens.
  • He (Senator Florez) also criticized health officials for not completing an investigation of an E. coli outbreak linked to Salinas Valley lettuce in 2005 that sickened at least 34 people in Minnesota.
  • "With 45 inspectors, 5,500 processing plants and 100,000 farms, that seems to be putting us well behind where we should be," said Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) at a legislative oversight meeting. "I don’t think government is doing its job in this case."
  • "I think the time for industry-sponsored approaches are over," said Florez, chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Organization. "I think consumers are looking for stronger measures than the voluntary measures that have produced 20 of these outbreaks. And we don’t want to see the 21st."

The hearing was attended by only two senators of the nine-member committee — Florez and Sen. Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata).  One of the seven "fiddlers" on the committee seemed to make it clear that he rather simply wait for more bodies to be counted:

  • The committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Salinas), declared the hearing a "witch-hunt" and premature.
  • "For any legislator to start proposing legislation without having an investigation concluded, I just think it’s premature and it’s unproductive," Denham said.

Why do these guys get paid?