A few days after the President and Vice President ordered and ate burgers in Arlington Virginia, the First Lady and her staff ate burgers at Good Stuff Eatery, 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003.

Unlike with the President’s burger binge, the First Lady’s was not caught on video nor was the “doneness” of her burger reported.   Also, I tried to find the restaurant inspection reports of the Good Stuff Eatery online, but apparently Washington DC, unlike neighboring Arlington VA, do not put inspections online.

Although FDA does not oversee Hamburger, Dr. Margaret Hamburg has been tapped to head FDA. As she noted in her testimony before the Senate this week:

Turning to food safety, Hamburg said it will require sustained effort, more money, and stronger laws to improve the situation. She wants to shift from chasing outbreaks after they have broken out to preventing them first. That would require all food companies to follow written safety plans, overseen by federal and state inspectors. Traceability and import safety — weak links in the system — would have to be strengthened.

Obama’s budget, released Thursday, calls for a $260-million increase for the FDA’s food safety program. Past budget cuts have hit the food inspection program hard, and part of the new funding would go to rebuild the ranks of inspectors.

As much as any other victim of the 2006 Dole Spinach Outbreak, Suzanne Bandy’s case is about the staggering contrast between past and present.  When asked for her thoughts, Suzanne wrote of her first 57 years: “very simply, my life embodied the American Dream.”  Suzanne’s former life is, however, gone for good.  Now, she states, “I pray to God every day that I may wake up from this horrible nightmare and return to the life that I loved.”

Sadly, Suzanne’s prayers will never be answered.   The E. coli O157:H7 infection, along with the resulting hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that she suffered in September 2006 devastated her kidneys.  Consequently, her current renal function—measured roughly a year after her acute illness—is nearing a level where either a kidney transplant or lifelong dialysis will be necessary for survival.  It is forecast that Suzanne will reach end stage renal disease in as little as five years.

Mr. President, this could have happened to you too.  E. coli O157:H7, as you will see from this video, is a very nasty bug.

Being that I can nearly see Alaska from my Hotel Room here in Canada, a loud “shout out” to Stephen Leary and the folks at Barf Blog for checking into the food safety record of Ray’s Hell Burger, a.k.a. Butcher Burger, 1713 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA – AFTER the President ate there. Ya really have to love the internet.

I posted yesterday about my concerns about the President ordering his hamburger medium-well. But, perhaps the bigger concern is what the hell was the Secret Service thinking – Or, Not. Here is the best of what is on-line at the Arlington Health Department:

Violations:  A summary of the violations found during the inspection are listed below.

Code / Observation / Corrective Action

3-301.11 Corrected During Inspection Critical An employee was observed contacting ready-to-eat (RTE) food [hamburger roll and lettuce] with their bare hands.

Except when washing fruits and vegetables as specified under 3-302.15 or as specified in paragraph (D) of this section, food employees may not contact exposed, RTE food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment.

3-603.11 Critical The food establishment serves hamburgers [cooked-to-order] undercooked without informing consumers of the significantly increased risk consuming such food by way of a disclosure and reminder using brochures, deli case or menu advisories, label statements, table tents, placards, or other effective written means.

Except food establishments that serve a highly susceptible population or have received a variance from our department, if an animal food such as beef, eggs, fish, lamb, milk, pork, poultry, or shellfish is served or sold raw, undercooked, or without otherwise being processed to eliminate pathogens, either in ready-to-eat form or as an ingredient in another ready-to-eat food, the permit holder shall inform consumers of the significantly increased risk of consuming such foods by way of a disclosure and reminder, as specified in paragraphs (B) and (C) of this section using brochures, deli case or menu advisories, label statements, table tents, placards, or other effective written means. (B) Disclosure shall include: (1) A description of the animal-derived foods, such as "oysters on the half shell (raw oysters)," "raw-egg Caesar salad," and "hamburgers (can be cooked to order);" or (2) Identification of the animal-derived foods by asterisking them to a footnote that states that the items are served raw or undercooked, or contain (or may contain) raw or undercooked ingredients. (C) Reminder shall include asterisking the animal-derived foods requiring disclosure to a footnote that states: (1) Regarding the safety of these items, written information is available upon request; (2) Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness; or (3) Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions. At issue is the role of government agencies, the regulated industry, and others in providing notice to consumers that animal-derived foods that are not subjected to adequate heat treatment pose a risk because they may contain biological agents that cause foodborne disease.

6-501.111 Insect, rodent, and/or other pest harborage conditions exist on the premises [mouse droppings were observed on the floor of the storage room].

The presence of insects, rodents, and other pests shall be controlled to minimize their presence on the premises by eliminating harborage conditions. Insects and other pests are capable of transmitting disease to man by contaminating food and food-contact surfaces. Effective measures must be taken to control their presence in food establishments.

Not quite the publicity that Ray’s Hell Burger or Butcher Burger was hoping for I imagine.  Or, perhaps like when Acting CDC director Richard Besser called Biden’s bungled comments about not flying in an airplane because of the risk of H1N1 "a teachable moment," we can learn something here about safe food?  Heck, I had time to change my deck before my speech this morning: