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House Ds Want Hearing on Emerging Pathogens

The leading Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking their Republican counterparts to hold a hearing on the public health threat posed by the rare and extremely virulent strain of E. coli responsible for the ongoing foodborne illness outbreak in Germany.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Health Subcommittee, and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ranking Member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent their request Monday in a letter to Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Subcommittee Chairmen Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL).
 
“The outbreak has serious implications for matters under the jurisdiction of this Committee, including food safety, the threats of emerging microbial pathogens and of emerging antibiotic resistant pathogens, and the adequacy of current efforts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address these threats,” says the letter.
 
The letter raises several questions, such as: What are the implications for the United States of a significant outbreak of what was previously an uncommon pathogenic strain? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the European surveillance system as compared to that of the United States? Will the new authorities provided in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 and the resources provided to implement these authorities help the United States address this issue?
 
Lawmakers also want to know more about this rare, deadly strain of E. coli and how it became resistant to several different antibiotics and the policy implications for growing antibiotic resistance among certain strains of bacteria.

“The deputy director of the division of food-borne, bacterial and mycotic diseases at the CDC suggested that resistance developed because the strain originated in a geographic region with high levels of antibiotic use, possibly an area with domestic farm animals or in a developing country,” reads the letter, referring to a statement by Robert Tauxe, the deputy director of foodborne illness at CDC, published by Bloomberg
 
“Our Committee has a long history of bipartisan work on food safety, antibiotic resistance, and other issues raised by this outbreak,” concludes the note. “We hope the Committee will continue this record by holding a prompt hearing on the public health threat posed by the new outbreak of food poisoning in Europe.”

After last August’s Salmonella outbreak, and half-billion egg recall, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee grilled executives from the companies involved and questioned federal regulators. The committee held similar hearings for major food safety catastrophes, including the 2009 Salmonella peanut butter and 2006 E. coli spinach outbreaks.  

© Food Safety News
  • Doc Mudd

    And, with their own patented style of hystrionics, the United States Congress shall round out the deadly drama/farce that is playing out in Germany.
    Tossing in their two cents: “the strain originated in a geographic region with high levels of antibiotic use, possibly an area with domestic farm animals or in a developing country”. Heck, why not? Everyone else has gleefully contributed an uninformed opinion on the epidemiology of the outbreak, so why not an official US Government gaff to embarrass our own medical community?
    These congressional types should stick to Twittering lewd photos of themselves to one another and leave the epidemiology to comptetent epidemiologists.
    Might better fund the FDA and relevant scientific research than engage in amateur speculation and political theatre…but that’s Washington DC.

  • hhamil

    To me, this is the type of timely notice of an event that I want FSN to focus on providing us because it provides important information (with links to both primary and secondary sources) that readers, like I, would not otherwise learn about until much later…if at all.
    Your citing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee’s hearing on the Wright County Eggs/Hillandale Farms salmonella outbreak reminds me of how politically motivated and worthless these hearings can be.
    I agree that the subcommittee “grilled executive from the companies involved;” however, I find the characterization “questioned federal regulators” very misleading.
    First, at the last minute, the subcommittee allowed the FDA to replace the appropriate witness Deputy Commissioner of Food, Michael Taylor, with a very inappropriate higher up.
    Then, the subcommittee allowed that witness to gloss over the FDA’s total failure to implement its ballyhooed new shell egg rule without a single decent question by a subcommittee member.
    Next, the Democrats used it as a way to attack Sen. Coburn and refused to allow his Republican colleagues to defend him.
    Finally, led by its chair, Henry Waxman (D-CA), the subcommittee drew the fundamentally wrong conclusion that the outbreak demonstrated the need for the immediate passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) when the outbreak actually demonstrated the clearly the failure of the FDA to fully and competently use its existing powers. In fact, the FSMA would have had no material impact on what occurred at Wright County Egg/Hillandale Farms much less stopped.
    As I have pointed out repeatedly in comments in FSN, approximately 140,000,000 of the eggs recalled were produced under the new rule. Obviously, there is zero evidence that the new rule made any difference because of the FDA’s longstanding policy decision to NOT proactively inspect egg producers—even those owned by people with horrid safety records like DeCoster.
    All in all, the subcommittee’s “hearing” was very little more than grandstanding political theater when a serious hearing was needed.
    Had the subcommittee actually done its job, the inadequacy of both the implementation of the FDA’s shell egg rule and the rule itself would have been revealed. A good hearing would also have revealed the cover up of the FDA’s poor performance by the careful dissembling of key supporters of the FSMA, particularly, Caroline Smith DeWaal and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A good hearing would have also demonstrated clearly inherent inadequacies of the FSMA approach to food safety.
    If this hearing is held and it follows the template of the earlier hearing on the Wright County Egg/Hillandale Farms outbreak, I hope that FSN won’t allow a similar travesty without holding it up to the scorn it merits.

  • Harry Hamil

    To me, this is the type of timely notice of an event that I want FSN to focus on providing us because it provides important information (with links to both primary and secondary sources) that readers, like I, would not otherwise learn about until much later…if at all.
    Your citing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee’s hearing on the Wright County Eggs/Hillandale Farms salmonella outbreak reminds me of how politically motivated and worthless these hearings can be.
    I agree that the subcommittee “grilled executive from the companies involved;” however, I find the characterization “questioned federal regulators” very misleading.
    First, at the last minute, the subcommittee allowed the FDA to replace the appropriate witness Deputy Commissioner of Food, Michael Taylor, with a very inappropriate higher up.
    Then, the subcommittee allowed that witness to gloss over the FDA’s total failure to implement its ballyhooed new shell egg rule without a single decent question by a subcommittee member.
    Next, the Democrats used it as a way to attack Sen. Coburn and refused to allow his Republican colleagues to defend him.
    Finally, led by its chair, Henry Waxman (D-CA), the subcommittee drew the fundamentally wrong conclusion that the outbreak demonstrated the need for the immediate passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) when the outbreak actually demonstrated the clearly the failure of the FDA to fully and competently use its existing powers. In fact, the FSMA would have had no material impact on what occurred at Wright County Egg/Hillandale Farms much less stopped.
    As I have pointed out repeatedly in comments in FSN, approximately 140,000,000 of the eggs recalled were produced under the new rule. Obviously, there is zero evidence that the new rule made any difference because of the FDA’s longstanding policy decision to NOT proactively inspect egg producers—even those owned by people with horrid safety records like DeCoster.
    All in all, the subcommittee’s “hearing” was very little more than grandstanding political theater when a serious hearing was needed.
    Had the subcommittee actually done its job, the inadequacy of both the implementation of the FDA’s shell egg rule and the rule itself would have been revealed. A good hearing would also have revealed the cover up of the FDA’s poor performance by the careful dissembling of key supporters of the FSMA, particularly, Caroline Smith DeWaal and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A good hearing would have also demonstrated clearly inherent inadequacies of the FSMA approach to food safety.
    If this hearing is held and it follows the template of the earlier hearing on the Wright County Egg/Hillandale Farms outbreak, I hope that FSN won’t allow a similar travesty without holding it up to the scorn it merits.

  • Gill

    No excuses or long-winded self-interested ideologically driven distractions. Fund FDA and USDA food safety efforts to better weed out the rotten eggs so we can enjoy safe, fresh, healthy food. Choose life over profits.