August 2010

As I was boarding a plane to Chicago, my inbox filled up with Wright County Egg’s and Hillandale Farm’s first every FDA inspection – the so called 483.  Here are the highlights (more like lowlights) of Wright County Egg. Frankly, it was hard to read this one.  I’ll leave Hillandale’s for another day.  If you want to read them in full, head over to the FDA Website.

• Chicken manure located in the manure pits below the egg laying operations was observed to be approximately 4 feet high to 8 feet high at the following locations: Layer 1 – House 1; Layer 3 – Houses 2, 7, 17, and 18. The outside access doors to the manure pits at these locations had been pushed out by the weight of the manure, leaving open access to wildlife or domesticated animals.

• Un-baited, unsealed holes appearing to be rodent burrows located along the second floor baseboards were observed inside Layer 1 – Houses 1-9 and 11-13; Layer 2 – Houses 7 and 11; Layer 3 – Houses 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6; Layer 4 – House 3.

• Dark liquid which appeared to be manure was observed seeping through the concrete foundation to the outside of the laying houses at the following locations: Layer 1 – Houses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, and 14; and Layer 3 – Houses 1, 8, 13, and 17.

• Standing water approximately 3 inches deep was observed at the southeast corner of the manure pit located inside Layer 1 – House 13.

• Un-caged birds (chickens having escaped) were observed in the egg laying operations in contact with the egg laying birds at Layer 3 – Houses 9 and 16. The un-caged birds were using the manure, which was approximately 8 feet high, to access the egg laying area.

• Layer 3 – House 11, the house entrance door to access both House 11 and 12 was blocked with excessive amounts of manure in the manure pits.

• There were between 2 to 5 live mice observed inside the egg laying Houses 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14.

• Live and dead flies too numerous to count were observed at the following locations inside the egg laying houses: Layer 1 – Houses 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 12; Layer 2 – Houses 7 and 11; Layer 3 – Houses 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, and 18. The live flies were on and around egg belts, feed, shell eggs and walkways in the different sections of each egg laying area. In addition, live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed on the manure pit floor located in Layer 2 – House 7.

You get the picture, read on if you wish:

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I know realistically that raising a few chickens for eggs in my backyard (presently in the guest room shower) will not change what happened over the last few weeks with the US Egg Industry.  And, I know that the eggs are not necessarily safer, but I felt I needed to do something other than sue

In light of this weekends recall by Cargill Meat Solutions of approximately 8,500 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26, and the sickening of three people, it is time for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to deem another six “enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) Shiga toxin-producing serotypes of Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains – O26, O45, O111, O121, O145, and O103 – “adulterants.”

Non-O157.jpgNon-E. coli O157:H7 EHEC as “Adulterants.”

According to the CDC, E. coli O157:H7 causes 73,000 illnesses and 50 deaths every year in the United States. Another six E. coli strains – O26, O45, O111, O121, O145, and O103 – are considered less pervasive, sickening “only” an estimated 37,000 people a year and killing nearly 30. E. coli O157:H7 is considered an adulterant in beef by the USDA (particularly ground beef), the other six strains are not.

Under 21 U.S.C. § 601 … (m), the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), the term “adulterated:”

shall apply to any carcass, part thereof, meat or meat food product under one or more of the following circumstances: (1) if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health; but in case the substance is not an added substance, such article shall not be considered adulterated under this clause if the quantity of such substance in or on such article does not ordinarily render it injurious to health; …

It is hard to read the above and not think that the word “adulterated” does not apply to all E. coli. Presently, industry does not test for it because the USDA and FSIS does not require it – because they are not considered “adulterants.” In addition, only five percent of labs in the U.S. routinely test for these other E. coli leaving a gap in our food safety network and the true level of illness unknown.

Non-E. coli O157:H7 EHEC have been found in ground beef.

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I was visting my clients, Linda and Richard Rivera, in San Francisco today where Linda is in her 15th month of hospitalization from an E. coli O157:H7 infection.  She has become, in my mind at least, the reason that S. 510 must pass and the President must sign sweeping food safety legislation now.  


Typhoid-Outbreak.jpgFruiti Pops, Inc. of Santa Fe Springs has recalled its mamey frozen fruit bars because of a possible link to a rare U.S. outbreak of typhoid fever.  The company said Thursday that the fruit bars were distributed in California, Arizona and Texas since May 2009.

Fruiti Pops says retail stores, ice cream trucks and vending

The other morning when I was prepping in another studio to talk with another cable channel about yet another food crisis—this time the recall of a half of a billion Salmonella-tainted eggs that had already sickened at least 1,400—I was asked by a young producer, “Attorney Marler, if you had a magic wand, what would you do to make food safer?”

My first thought (to myself) was, “How the hell do I know, I’m just an ambulance chasing barracuda looking to destroy some poor helpless food manufacturing corporation that just poisoned a bunch of people, cost retail chains hundreds of millions of dollars in recall costs, and damaged its entire sector’s image and sales?”

But then I thought some more. I thought about my nearly eighteen years spent dismantling those helpless corporations to secure medical expenses and lost wages for clients whose lives were destroyed, or ended, because they did something we all do about three times a day: they ate food. I thought about the ICU’s I had been in and witnessed the panic in a parent’s eye as a doctor coldly explained the need for kidney dialysis, or the reasons to stop life support because their child’s brain had stopped functioning. I thought about the heroic struggles in rehab as a brain-injured client learned to brush her hair and teeth, or learn to walk again as the family looked hopefully on. I thought about the fear that these families have as they wonder how they will cope with a disabled future without the resources to pay for it.

And, then I thought, “Give me the damn wand!”

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