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Food Safety Advocates Decry a Year of Recalls

In an effort to ramp up the pressure on the Senate to move on the pending food safety bill, food safety advocates and foodborne illness victims yesterday unveiled a report outlining the 85 recalls that have occurred since the House passed its version of the legislation in July 2009.

“Recalls and outbreaks are the most public consequence of our ‘horse and buggy’ food safety system,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which released the report with the Consumer Federation of America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P) at the National Press Club.  

“Consumers are sometimes sickened and everyone up and down the chain has to check for, remove, and destroy the contaminated products,” said DeWaal. “Only Congress can fix the underlying problems by passing legislation that has been languishing in the Senate for over a year.”

According to the report, of the 85 product recalls under FDA jurisdiction, “36 of those recalls were due to Salmonella contamination of lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, green onions, and ground pepper.  Hydrolyzed vegetable protein contaminated with Salmonella spurred the recall of a wide variety of soup and dip mixes, dressings, and seasonings.  32 recalls, mostly from contaminated cheeses, were due to dangerous Listeria bacteria.  E. coli bacteria on shredded romaine lettuce sickened at least 26 people in 23 states and the District of Columbia.”

ryleepresser.jpgThirteen-year-old Rylee Gustafson of Henderson, NV, who spent two weeks on life support after eating E. coli-contaminated spinach, spoke at yesterday’s even, calling on the Senate to pass the food safety legislation.

“I want to know that the food on my plate is safe,” said Gustafson. “I hope that the Senate can finish work on the food safety bill, and that other kids won’t have to suffer from a foodborne illness like I did.”

“Unfortunately, the FDA is often in reactive mode, chasing down the source of an outbreak long after much of the food in question has been sold,” said Elizabeth Hitchcock, a public health advocate for U.S. PIRG, which is utilizing its nationwide grassroots network to push for a vote on the bill.  “We need this food safety reform legislation so that the FDA can focus on preventing contamination in the first place–before the food ends up in Americans’ cupboards and refrigerators.

© Food Safety News
  • In an attempt to pass legislation that she and her cohorts at CSPI and the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS) favor, Caroline Smith DeWaal continues to consciously mislead the American public about the status of food safety and food safety regulation in the US and about what S 510 actually does and the impact it will have.
    First, the FDA’s authority is NOT entirely based upon the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Rather, according to the brief files on 4-26-10 for it in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund suit questioning the FDA’s authority to prohibit the interstate transport of raw milk, much of the FDA’s most powerful authority comes from the Public Health Service Act (PHSA).
    For example, the FFDCA clearly limits the FDA’s authority over certain food produced for consumption within a state, i.e., food that doesn’t cross the boundary from one state to another. But, in the “Brief in Support of United States’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint” (http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/litigation/ey100426–ds mtd memo in support.pdf.), the US Attorney asserted that a court precedent based upon the PHSA says that it also has authority over food that is clearly produced for intrastate consumption.
    Second, S 510 doesn’t “modernize” the FFDCA. The FFDCA has been being continuously updated since it was passed in 1938. The FFDCA has bee amended dozens of times since it was created and numbers of these changes have been substantial. It is NOT the “dinosaur” the supporters of S 510 would have us believe.
    Third, S 510 does NOT increase the FDA’s AUTHORITY so much as it requires it to use its existing authority.
    For example, the new sections which the Tester-Hagan amendments will primarily change are Sec. 103 Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (the requirement for a HARPC plan for EVERY facility registered under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act) and Sec. 104 Standards for Produce Safety (the writing of minimum standards for the production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables). Neither of these additions to the FFDCA grants new authority. Rather, they ONLY require the FDA to get off it fanny and pass rules that it says it has favored for years which will impose a specific methodology for addressing food safety issues. Of course, CSPI and MOFS support this methodology, too.
    The primary “new authorities” for which Ms. DeWaal’s and Commissioner Hamburg’s have called are actually simple declarations that a facility’s production of food without an FDA approved HARPC plan is a “prohibited act” and all food NOT produced or harvested according to the FDA’s new “Standards for Produce Safety” is automatically “adulterated” and subject to seizure.
    Fourth, S 510 is the great CYA for the FDA.
    When the FDA’s new regulations do the same thing to small growers, packers, processors and distributors of fruits and vegetables that they have done to the meat production industry (i.e., force most of us to sell out to industrial ag or close), then the FDA was only doing what it was told to do. When outbreaks continue to occur consistent within the current trends and don’t “drop like a rock,” then the FDA was so busy doing what Congress demanded that it didn’t have time to do other important things and needs more people and money. When an outbreak arises from imported foods, then the FDA was only relying upon its partners in other countries as required by the harmonization with international law required by S 510. When a grower screws up, as Wright County Egg has, because it wasn’t properly inspected (or inspected at all as was the case in Wright County Egg), then the state agency required to inspect the farm per the new Sec. 419 didn’t do its job.
    Fifth, over 200,000,000 million of the eggs recalled by Wright County Egg were AFTER the Shell Egg Rule was in force. STATEMENTS BY MS. DEWAAL AND COMMISSIONER HAMBURG THAT THE RULE CAME TOO LATE ARE LIES. What came too late was enforcement by the FDA and FSIS of existing rules.
    The Shell Egg Rule is exactly the kind of “preventive” rule that S 510 will require. Yet, the Shell Egg Rule has NOT worked, nor will the new rules required by S 510, until the FDA and FSIS are held accountable their performance. And that will be slow to occur until Caroline Smith DeWaal and her friends at MOFS quit covering up for their friends at the FDA and FSIS.
    In a sentence, sadly, Rylee Gustafson’s hopes will be for naught.

  • In an attempt to pass legislation that she and her cohorts at CSPI and the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS) favor, Caroline Smith DeWaal continues to consciously mislead the American public about the status of food safety and food safety regulation in the US and about what S 510 actually does and the impact it will have.
    First, the FDA’s authority is NOT entirely based upon the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). Rather, according to the brief files on 4-26-10 for it in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund suit questioning the FDA’s authority to prohibit the interstate transport of raw milk, much of the FDA’s most powerful authority comes from the Public Health Service Act (PHSA).
    For example, the FFDCA clearly limits the FDA’s authority over certain food produced for consumption within a state, i.e., food that doesn’t cross the boundary from one state to another. But, in the “Brief in Support of United States’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint” (http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/litigation/ey100426–ds mtd memo in support.pdf.), the US Attorney asserted that a court precedent based upon the PHSA says that it also has authority over food that is clearly produced for intrastate consumption.
    Second, S 510 doesn’t “modernize” the FFDCA. The FFDCA has been being continuously updated since it was passed in 1938. The FFDCA has bee amended dozens of times since it was created and numbers of these changes have been substantial. It is NOT the “dinosaur” the supporters of S 510 would have us believe.
    Third, S 510 does NOT increase the FDA’s AUTHORITY so much as it requires it to use its existing authority.
    For example, the new sections which the Tester-Hagan amendments will primarily change are Sec. 103 Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (the requirement for a HARPC plan for EVERY facility registered under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act) and Sec. 104 Standards for Produce Safety (the writing of minimum standards for the production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables). Neither of these additions to the FFDCA grants new authority. Rather, they ONLY require the FDA to get off it fanny and pass rules that it says it has favored for years which will impose a specific methodology for addressing food safety issues. Of course, CSPI and MOFS support this methodology, too.
    The primary “new authorities” for which Ms. DeWaal’s and Commissioner Hamburg’s have called are actually simple declarations that a facility’s production of food without an FDA approved HARPC plan is a “prohibited act” and all food NOT produced or harvested according to the FDA’s new “Standards for Produce Safety” is automatically “adulterated” and subject to seizure.
    Fourth, S 510 is the great CYA for the FDA.
    When the FDA’s new regulations do the same thing to small growers, packers, processors and distributors of fruits and vegetables that they have done to the meat production industry (i.e., force most of us to sell out to industrial ag or close), then the FDA was only doing what it was told to do. When outbreaks continue to occur consistent within the current trends and don’t “drop like a rock,” then the FDA was so busy doing what Congress demanded that it didn’t have time to do other important things and needs more people and money. When an outbreak arises from imported foods, then the FDA was only relying upon its partners in other countries as required by the harmonization with international law required by S 510. When a grower screws up, as Wright County Egg has, because it wasn’t properly inspected (or inspected at all as was the case in Wright County Egg), then the state agency required to inspect the farm per the new Sec. 419 didn’t do its job.
    Fifth, over 200,000,000 million of the eggs recalled by Wright County Egg were AFTER the Shell Egg Rule was in force. STATEMENTS BY MS. DEWAAL AND COMMISSIONER HAMBURG THAT THE RULE CAME TOO LATE ARE LIES. What came too late was enforcement by the FDA and FSIS of existing rules.
    The Shell Egg Rule is exactly the kind of “preventive” rule that S 510 will require. Yet, the Shell Egg Rule has NOT worked, nor will the new rules required by S 510, until the FDA and FSIS are held accountable their performance. And that will be slow to occur until Caroline Smith DeWaal and her friends at MOFS quit covering up for their friends at the FDA and FSIS.
    In a sentence, sadly, Rylee Gustafson’s hopes will be for naught.

  • Bilo

    Mr. Hamil,
    there is no blog on the internet where you wouldn’t put your comment in. After reading a lot of your remarks in the last months, I really wonder why you are personally so against food safety and traceback.
    What do you have to hide or someone related to you? You don’t care about humans health and live at all. You are worse then the food mafia.
    I know you will answer immediately to my comment as you have all time in the world looks like. Don’t expect an answer back.