On the long flight home from D.C., as I was thinking about what appears to be the lost battle over new Food Safety legislation, I was also thinking about what I can do personally to make our food supply safer, and I thought that it has been over a year since we filed the Petition for an Interpretive Rule Declaring enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing Serotypes of Escherichia coli, Including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. § 601(m)(1) with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Since I filed the Petition in October 2009, I have also filed two supplements – See, First and Second.
When I filed the Petition, Mead, et. al., estimated that non-O157 STECs (like O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145) caused 36,00 illnesses, 1,000 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in America each year. Now, admittedly, not all, or most of these illnesses and deaths were caused by vectors overseen by FSIS, but clearly some have.
However, earlier this week the CDC released the new estimates of illnesses caused by non-O157 STECs has risen to over 160,000 ill yearly. Hospitalizations and deaths are lower because many non-O157 STECs do not cause severe illness, but O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145 certainly do.
It is time for FSIS to move forward on deeming at least O26 (arguably already does), O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145 adulterants. With the numbers from the CDC of ill higher, it is time for the government to act before more people are sickened or before a Court forces them to do their job.