April 2011

2010 and 2011 seem to have been busy times for the attempted expansion of the raw milk industry. For California, Iowa, Wyoming, and as of a few days ago Washington, the march towards unpasteurized milk sales has slowed. However, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin are still in play. (PDF

grape_tomatoes.jpgSix L’s of Immokalee, Fla. is voluntarily recalling a single lot of grape tomatoes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. The strain of Salmonella has not been

Really?

According to the CDC, preliminary analysis has suggested exposure to clinical and teaching microbiology laboratories is a possible source of illness. Illnesses have been identified among students in microbiology teaching laboratories and employees in clinical microbiology laboratories. Ill persons (60%) were significantly more likely than control persons (2%) to report exposure to a microbiology

A report and policy brief released today identifies the Top 10 riskiest combinations of foods and disease-causing bugs, a finding that will help the FDA, USDA and other agencies do a better job when it comes to keeping the nation’s food supply safe.

Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.04.47 AM.pngScreen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.05.12 AM.pngThe Top 10 list, by researchers at the University of Florida’s Emerging

From and FDA Press Release:

Rainbow Acres distributed raw milk in violation of federal law

The Justice Department, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has filed a complaint for permanent injunction against Daniel L. Allgyer, owner of the Rainbow Acres Farm, in Kinzers, Pa., for distributing unpasteurized (or “raw”) milk for

pointing-finger.jpgI have always been a bit amazed at the meat industry and the USDA. In the 18 years of litigating E. coli O157:H7 (and other bacterial and viral) cases – mostly on behalf of children – I am tired (and a bit disgusted) by the constant din of blaming the consumer. Sometimes the industry goes so far as to sue the parent of an injured child. One company went so far a few years ago as to sue the church that it had supplied with E. coli-tainted meat. So, several years ago I penned this Op-ed:

“It is not the failure of the Meat Industry in not keeping cattle feces out of hamburger that sickened the child, but it is the fault of the parent who handled and cooked the hamburger that was fed to the child.” This is a typical response to a sickened child by the meat industry and their lawyers. At first I calmly tried to respond that the Meat Industry that makes a profit off of selling “USDA Inspected Meat” can not blame the consumer if the product actually contains a pathogen that can severely sicken or kill a child. What other product in the United States would a manufacturer expect consumers to fix themselves before they used it?

The reply to my calm response was “the consumer should know that meat may contain bacteria and they are told to cook it.” My calmness has now faded. Think about the little labels on meat that you buy in the store – the ones that tell you to cook the meat to 160 degrees – of course they also say USDA inspected too. However, the labels do not say “THE USDA INSPECTION MEANS NOTHING. THIS PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN A PATHOGENIC BACTERIA THAT CAN SEVERELY SICKEN OR KILL YOU AND/OR YOUR CHILD. HANDLE THIS PRODUCT WITH EXTREME CARE.”

I wonder why the Meat Industry does not want a label like that on your pound of hamburger. It knows that the label is truthful. Do you think it might be concerned that Moms and Dads would stop buying it? The day the industry puts a similar label on hamburger is the day that I will go work for them. The reality is that the Meat Industry cannot assure the public that the meat we buy is not contaminated. So, instead of finding a way to get cattle feces out of our meat, they blame parents (and presumably all the teenagers that work at all the burger joints in America) when children get sick.

Consumers can always do better. However, study after study shows that, despite the CDC estimated 76 million people getting sick every year from food borne illnesses, the American public still has misconceptions and overconfidence in our Nation’s food supply. According to a study by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, fewer than half of the respondents knew that fresh vegetables and fruits could contain harmful bacteria, and only 25% thought that eggs and dairy products could be contaminated. Most consumers believe that food safety hazards can be seen or smelled. Only 25% of consumers surveyed knew that cooking temperatures were critical to food safety, and even fewer knew that foods should be refrigerated promptly after cooking. Consumers do not expect that things that you cannot see in your food can kill you. Consumers are being blamed, but most lack the knowledge or tools to properly protect themselves and their children.

The FDA has stated, “unlike other pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 has no margin for error. It takes only a microscopic amount to cause serious illness or even death.” Over the last few years our Government and the Meat Industry have repeatedly told the consumer to cook hamburger until there is no pink. Yet, recent university and USDA studies show meat can turn brown before it is actually “done.” Now the consumer is urged to use a thermometer to test the internal temperature of the meat. However, how do you use one, and who really has one? Many consumers wrongly believe the Government is protecting the food supply. How many times have we heard our Government officials spout “The US food supply is the safest in the world.” Remember, however, that it was the USDA that sat on positive E. coli tests for over a week that allowed this recent Con Agra E. coli outbreak to spiral out of control.

Where is the multi-million dollar ad campaign to convince us of the dangers of hamburger, like we do for tobacco? The USDA’s FightBAC and Thermy education programs are limited, and there are no studies to suggest that they are effective. Most consumers learn about food safety from TV and family members – If your TV viewing habits and family are like mine, these are highly suspect sources of good information. The bottom line is that you cannot leave the last bacteria “Kill Step” to a parent or to a kid in a fast food joint. The industry that makes billions off of selling meat must step up and clean up their mess. They can, and someday will, if I have anything to say about it. That day will come much faster if they start working on it now, and stop blaming the victims.

So a few years ago, I almost spilled my hot coffee on my lap when I read James Marsden’s Op-ed in “Meating Place” – “Why “just cook it” won’t cut it:”


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vitor-belfort1.jpgAccording to press report, in a series of Twitter messages issued today, former UFC champion and recent contender Vitor Belfort (19-9 MMA, 8-4 UFC) revealed that he has contracted hepatitis A – a “moderately” serious infection caused by contaminated food or water that’s often mistaken for the flu.

The illness will keep Belfort from cornering

Jonathans Sprouts of Rochester, MA is upgrading its recall of conventional alfalfa sprout products with a specific sell-by date to include all of its alfalfa products, conventional and organic, with all sell-by dates, as a precaution, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.  Six products are involved:

• Jonathan’s 4oz Alfalfa Sprouts