E-coli-death-001.jpgMost of you likely have not followed the story of Mason Jones, who in 2005 at the age of five died of E coli O157:H7 poisoning after eating a school lunch. I have followed it closely, in part because over the last few years, as I have spoken at Food Safety Conferences in Wales and England, Mason’s story is everywhere. Here, in the United States, his death from E. coli O157:H7, like the deaths of countless U.S. children, produces a polite nod, but never a national reaction. Mason’s horrible death has been discussed at length in the United Kingdom for five years. However, if his death had happened anywhere here it would have prompted a few news stories, a civil lawsuit, but never five years of national reflection.

Mason’s death from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), like the deaths and severe illnesses that occur in the United States yearly, are hard to imagine and more difficult to watch. Mason was the only death among 150 victims of the 2005 outbreak caused by butcher, William John Tudor, who sold contaminated meat. Tudor, age 58, was jailed for a year in September 2007 for “putting unsafe meat on the market.”

Ask yourself this, how many times in the U.S. has a food producer been fined or jailed for putting unsafe food on the market? Think hard, because it does not happen.

Other than the lawsuits I bring on behalf of victims and families, companies that do the same as Mr. Tudor, generally simply move on, either bankrupt or still in business. Our government might do a show hearing or two on Capitol Hill, but any substantive investigation or prosecution is left for me. Government, businesses (large and small), and frankly, the public, sees a Mason as a far too common sideshow in our desire for cheap food and fat profits. Remember the oft-used phrase, “We have the safest food supply in the world.”

According to press reports, yesterday, coroner David Bowen brought in a neutral narrative verdict on the death of Mason Jones at an inquest in Newport, Wales. Despite strong words underlining that Mason had died from eating contaminated meat in school, the coroner said he was unable to record a verdict of unlawful killing. The family criticized the coroner’s decision not to say that Mason was unlawfully killed by eating contaminated meat: “We are extremely disappointed the coroner felt he wasn’t legally able to return a verdict that Mason was unlawfully killed.” However, Tudor did spend time behind bars. In the U.S., Tudor would still be on the golf course.

However, the coroner did call for stricter food controls. He demanded more spot checks on abattoirs and meat factories to prevent another fatality. He said: “The mechanism for the inspection of food hygiene regulations should be reviewed as a matter of urgency. Unannounced inspections of abattoirs and premises on which meat is processed should take place more regularly. Compliance with food hygiene regulations should be more strictly enforced.”

Sounds like the complete opposite of what the anti-regulation/Tea Party groups are saying here about any food safety legislation, namely HB 2749 and S 510. Remember the oft-used phrase, “We have the safest food supply in the world.” Mason Jones, Wales’s “E. coli Boy’s,” death is still causing anguish across the pond, but not a ripple here.

  • Bill Anderson

    The problem we have in America, Bill, is that corporations get away with murder. But farmers who sell raw milk and who have made no one sick are persecuted by blood-thirsty “food safety” regulators.
    To pre-empt you here –I know that there are farmers who have made people sick. Most of it is pretty minor illness, and there are a few serious cases. But no one has died from drinking raw milk in over 30 years in America. (Soft mexican-style cheese is a different story, but that is not the same thing)
    But I’m not talking about those cases here. I am talking about the many farmers who are targeting simply because they sell raw milk, not because of illness. Even farmers like Michael Schmidt, who is very thorough in his testing of his milk and animals, has an extremely well-designed and hygienic milking and bottling facility, goes to great pains to ensure the safety of his product and that his consumers are making an informed choice, is threatened with jail and financial ruin by the very types of people you wish to give MORE power in your continued promotion of S510.
    Michael, btw, has blogged extensively against S510.
    Michael is by no means the only example, he is just the most famous. There are many other examples of farmers who have made no one ill, but have been persecuted viciously by all the vast resources of the state.
    That is what the food fascists in North America have done. It has nothing to do with food safety, at all. The corporate criminals get away scotch free, while the poor dairy farmer faces police raids and financial ruin.
    It only has to do with complete and total corporate domination of the food system. That is why I am against S510.

  • Bill, you see, when you stop yelling, you may find that we have something to agree on. I too believe that many corporations do get away with murder. And, as I have posted on my blog in the past, I think raw milk farmers (even one’s acting legally) are targeted more often than manufacturers producing tainted products. I think that all producers should be treated the same and should stop poisoning their customers – small or large producers.
    I am not going to comment on you characterization of who gets ill and how sick they are. I should bring you to the next ICU and watch a kid die.
    Re: “blood-thirsty” regulators after raw milk producers. They are doing their job. They are enforcing the law. If you don’t like the law, like Michael Schmidt (who I have great respect for), get off your ass and change them. Run for office. Take the time you spend harassing me and work to get raw milk sales legal AND safe. Sit down an be reasonable with your Governor’s staff. You guys were so close, but acting out as you did scared the hell out of people. Be responsible and respectful. We have reasonable regulations in the State of Washington on raw milk that work – not perfectly – but they work.
    Re: 510 – If this bill and the House version HB 2749 do not pass, the R’s will never bring it back up and the good parts of these bills will never see the light of day. That will be a shame. Instead of being afraid of engaging in rule making after the bills pass, or playing to the crowd as David does, you should jump in and work to make sure that Tester/Hagen works.
    You have a simple, “I am a victim,” view of the world. It really is time to grow up. Unless you are the President of North Korea, life is about compromise. It is time for you to use your talents for good.

  • Also young Bill, in several of the raw milk cases that I have been involved in (see, http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com), the problems at those facilities were far greater than those found in Wales, yet none of those small farmer spent a day in jail. Justice?

  • Larry and Karen Andrew

    I had to watch my wife almost die as a result of criminal actions by Stewart Parnell. It pains me to read a response against increased rules and regulations on food producers based on an argument pointing to some who do not sicken and kill people.

    No one can reasonably contest the truth of the thousands of people who are sickened and the many who die each year because of decisions by corporate owners and management who minimize food safety protocols in order to reduce cost. The people affected by these corporate decisions cannot be allowed to be dismissed as “collateral damage” or “acceptable losses”.

    We have laws and regulations to protect society. Even though most people do not rob, we have criminal laws to sanction those that do. Since it is evident that some food suppliers do not elevate food safety to a primary corporate or business objective, it has become necessary for us to establish rules and regulations to protect ourselves. That is what we are doing by supporting our legislators in the effort to deal with this real problem.

    Improved food safety laws and regulations are simply an effort by the citizens to use their government to deal with a problem that those providing our food are unable or unwilling to fix.

  • Thanks Larry and Karen – have a great Thanksgiving.