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Coalition to Senate: Move on Food Safety

The Make Our Food Safe Coalition, made up of leading public health, consumer, and food safety organizations, continues to call on lawmakers to push the pending food safety legislation though the Senate before the end of the year.

Yesterday the group released a series of reports on the long-term health impacts of foodborne illness and a statement urging Congress to act.

“Families across America want the government to do more to ensure their loved ones do not get sick from the food they serve over the holidays,” says Sandra Eskin, director of the food safety project for the Pew Health Group. “Congress should enact stronger food safety laws before the end of the year.”

The group is pushing for the Senate to finish work on S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which remains stalled in the Senate behind health care reform. Though a markup is scheduled for mid-November, Senate staff say there is little to no chance the bill will make it to the floor before the end of the year.

The coalition cites overwhelming public support for stronger food safety regulation, the fact that the House already passed a similar bill last summer, and new research showing the long-term health impacts of foodborne illness as primary reasons for quick action on S. 510.

“The polling and reports released today should show our lawmakers that they need to send food safety legislation to the president’s desk as soon as possible,” says Elizabeth Armstrong of Fishers, IN, whose young daughter Ashley fell ill in 2006 from spinach contaminated with E. coli.

“The U.S. Senate has an historic opportunity to take a major step toward improving food safety for all Americans,” said the group in a statement yesterday. “The Make Our Food Safe Coalition believes the Senate can take a major step forward in protecting public health by passing legislation that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enhanced authority to oversee the safety of the food by the end of the year.”

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    The Make Our Food Safe Coalition’s one-size-fits-all approach to food safety will cripple those of us who supply the healthiest food in America–growers, processors and distributors of local food for local people. And it will support the expansion of industrial agriculture–the greatest source of food-borne illnesses.
    On 10-22-09 based upon what she described as the “expert counsel” of her Senior Adviser, Michael Taylor, the head of the FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, misled Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) during the Senate HELP Committee when she said, “this legislation, correct me if I’m wrong, applies just when food is entered into interstate commerce.” (http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_10_22/2009_10_22.html) No one corrected the FDA Commissioner despite the fact that she was absolutely wrong. S 510 has NO such restriction. Also, the House version (HR 2749) does not either. And the FDA’s current registration requirement for food facilities (Sec. 1.225 of 21FCR Part 1 Subpart H) which triggers the food safety plan requirements in Sec. 103 of S 510 clearly states “you must register your facility whether or not the food from the facility enters interstate commerce.” (see http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=27659682132fb115bc73385bbc9f2716&rgn=div8&view=text&node=21:1.0.1.1.1.6.16.1&idno=21)
    Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has led the efforts of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition. She testified to the HELP Committee just after Dr. Hamburg and was the primary spokesperson for the fundamentally wrong, clearly misleading CSPI study “The 10 Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration” released on 10-6-09. In its press release, CSPI claimed, “Manure, contaminated irrigation water, or poor handling practices are ALL [emphasis mine] possible culprits in [the leafy greens]outbreaks.” In fact, the CSPI’s own Outbreak Alert! database upon which the study was based clearly shows that numbers of the illnesses could ONLY have been due to poor handling by preparers of the food (e.g., restaurants). And restaurants are exempted from S 510. CSPI used built upon this when its release continued, “nor does [the FDA] provide specific safety standards for even the largest growers to meet.”
    In fact, for over 10 years, the FDA has been providing “specific safety standards” to grower of all sizes via numerous guidance documents (see http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/ProduceandPlanProducts/default.htm) and its input into the USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programs.
    Finally, the foolishness of this one-size-fits-all approach to food safety may have best been summarized by Bill Marler when he was quoted in the 7-13-09 San Francisco Chronicle as having said, “In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market.
    Could it happen? Absolutely. But the big problem has been the mass-produced product. What you’re seeing is this rub between trying to make it as clean as possible so they don’t poison anybody, but still not wanting to come to the reality that it may be the industrialized process that’s making it all so risky.” (See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/13/MN0218DVJ8.DTL).
    What food safety efforts needs most of all are full funding of the FDA and USDA-FSIS regulator efforts and full enforcement of existing food safety regulations. The FDA, USDA-FSIS and the CDC have all endangered Americans by their failure to do their jobs well over the last few years. This bill gives them cover for that poor work by giving false credence to their claims that they don’t have the powers needed to assure safe food. What they need is to be held accountable.
    I will happily defend EVERYTHING I have written. E-mail me at hhamil@buncombe.main.nc.us.

  • Harry Hamil

    The Make Our Food Safe Coalition’s one-size-fits-all approach to food safety will cripple those of us who supply the healthiest food in America–growers, processors and distributors of local food for local people. And it will support the expansion of industrial agriculture–the greatest source of food-borne illnesses.
    On 10-22-09 based upon what she described as the “expert counsel” of her Senior Adviser, Michael Taylor, the head of the FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, misled Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) during the Senate HELP Committee when she said, “this legislation, correct me if I’m wrong, applies just when food is entered into interstate commerce.” (http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_10_22/2009_10_22.html) No one corrected the FDA Commissioner despite the fact that she was absolutely wrong. S 510 has NO such restriction. Also, the House version (HR 2749) does not either. And the FDA’s current registration requirement for food facilities (Sec. 1.225 of 21FCR Part 1 Subpart H) which triggers the food safety plan requirements in Sec. 103 of S 510 clearly states “you must register your facility whether or not the food from the facility enters interstate commerce.” (see http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=27659682132fb115bc73385bbc9f2716&rgn=div8&view=text&node=21:1.0.1.1.1.6.16.1&idno=21)
    Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has led the efforts of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition. She testified to the HELP Committee just after Dr. Hamburg and was the primary spokesperson for the fundamentally wrong, clearly misleading CSPI study “The 10 Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration” released on 10-6-09. In its press release, CSPI claimed, “Manure, contaminated irrigation water, or poor handling practices are ALL [emphasis mine] possible culprits in [the leafy greens]outbreaks.” In fact, the CSPI’s own Outbreak Alert! database upon which the study was based clearly shows that numbers of the illnesses could ONLY have been due to poor handling by preparers of the food (e.g., restaurants). And restaurants are exempted from S 510. CSPI used built upon this when its release continued, “nor does [the FDA] provide specific safety standards for even the largest growers to meet.”
    In fact, for over 10 years, the FDA has been providing “specific safety standards” to grower of all sizes via numerous guidance documents (see http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/ProduceandPlanProducts/default.htm) and its input into the USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programs.
    Finally, the foolishness of this one-size-fits-all approach to food safety may have best been summarized by Bill Marler when he was quoted in the 7-13-09 San Francisco Chronicle as having said, “In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market.
    Could it happen? Absolutely. But the big problem has been the mass-produced product. What you’re seeing is this rub between trying to make it as clean as possible so they don’t poison anybody, but still not wanting to come to the reality that it may be the industrialized process that’s making it all so risky.” (See http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/13/MN0218DVJ8.DTL).
    What food safety efforts needs most of all are full funding of the FDA and USDA-FSIS regulator efforts and full enforcement of existing food safety regulations. The FDA, USDA-FSIS and the CDC have all endangered Americans by their failure to do their jobs well over the last few years. This bill gives them cover for that poor work by giving false credence to their claims that they don’t have the powers needed to assure safe food. What they need is to be held accountable.
    I will happily defend EVERYTHING I have written. E-mail me at hhamil@buncombe.main.nc.us.

  • As principle author of CSPI’s report, The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, I want to assure you that it is supported by the best available data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and represents the unfortunate reality that certain foods are more frequently associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. These foods should be on the FDA’s priority list for immediate attention, a fact that the report highlighted.
    The methodology for determining the ten commodities was straightforward: CSPI’s Outbreak Alert! Database— a peer-reviewed source describing outbreaks reported to CDC with both an identified food and pathogen—was sorted to delineate those commodities responsible for the most illnesses linked to outbreaks over the 17 years contained therein. Those commodities causing more than 2000 illnesses were then re-sorted by the number of outbreaks, resulting in the ten riskiest foods (those having the highest frequency of being linked to an outbreak). This particular list contained only FDA-regulated products, although CSPI has previously published a similar list (ranked by illnesses) including USDA-regulated products as well. (That list is available in December 2005 Nutrition Action Healthletter.)
    Notably, leafy greens topped both lists. One of the best items for consumers nutritionally, leafy greens do carry significant risks from the farm to the fork. Data show that restaurants and private homes are the reported source of a majority of foodborne outbreaks, but that does not mean that handling in those locations is the cause of all contamination. It is simply impossible to know, under our current reporting system, whether a product was contaminated by water, manure, or improper handling at the farm, processor, or packer… or whether it arrived in pristine condition to a restaurant or home kitchen, where it was then contaminated. Enough outbreaks have been linked to leafy greens and traced to the farm for it to be clear that contamination on the farm is a reality that cannot be ignored.
    Although FDA has routinely provided guidance to the industry, it is clear that the time for voluntary measures and simple suggestions has passed. This list is not new, and FDA is already taking steps to address problems with eggs, leafy greens and oysters, three of the items on the list. But the pace of the agency’s response over the last decade has been inadequate, resulting in a huge loss in consumer confidence in the FDA. Congress has an opportunity today to take real steps toward bringing FDA into the 21st century, providing it with the authority and mandate to improve the safety of the food supply and this list will help the agency determine its priorities in the coming years.
    Sarah A. Klein, Staff Attorney
    Food Safety Program
    Center for Science in the Public Interest