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Publisher’s Platform: It’s That Time of Year

Once again the year is drawing to a close and we start to think about making lists and checking them twice.  I thought I would reach out to our nearly 10,000 subscribers and ask that you share your thoughts.  

Who should be on the naughty and nice lists related to food safety in 2011?  Below you’ll find the lists for 2010.  Who should be added?  Subtracted?  What were the most important food safety stories of 2011?

Feel free to put your ideas in the comment section below or email Dan and Mary at info@foodsafetynews.com.

The 2010 Food Safety News Naughty and Nice List:

NAUGHTY:  Glenn Beck, radio talk-show and Fox News Channel host, who for several days referred to food safety legislation in the Senate as “the farm bill.”

NAUGHTY:  The People’s Republic of China, not for our concerns about their food exports to the U.S., but for their decision to send parent Zhao Lianhai to prison for two and half years for his advocacy for his then three-year-old son, who was a victim of melamine-contaminated milk and baby formula.

NAUGHTY:  Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, for repeatedly blocking the food safety bill in the Senate, leaving little room on the clock to get it done.

NAUGHTY:  Chicken King “Jack” DeCoster, for not telling Congress it was his feed mill, serving two egg production operations, that was responsible for the Salmonella contamination that led to the largest egg recall in the nation’s history.

NAUGHTY:  R-Calf president Max Thornsberry, for calling for the editors and a popular columnist for BEEF, Drovers, and Beef Today — some of his industry’s best-known publications and websites — to be fired just because they didn’t agree with him.

NAUGHTY:  Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, for using American Meat Institute’s J. Patrick Boyle for some cheap laughs at AMI’s expense.  (Not that we did not enjoy it, but it was naughty.)

NICE:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who in the end, fulfilled his promise to E. coli victim Linda Rivera by pushing the food safety bill through the Senate.

NICE:  Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, chairman emeritus of the Commerce and Energy Committee, for steering food safety legislation through the House and on to the President’s desk, even when it had to be done without a Conference Committee with the Senate.

NICE:  Senators Richard Durbin, R-IL, and Tom Harkin, D-IA, who knocked down obstacle after obstacle to keep food safety reform alive, especially at those times when it appeared to be doomed.

NICE:  Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, the leading advocate for a single federal food safety agency, for her willingness to push for needed reforms while not letting the imperfect be the enemy of the good.

NICE:  AMI president J. Patrick Boyle, for telling a television comedy audience that he would not order a rare hamburger.

NICE:  Michael Moss and staff of New York Times, for winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for telling the story of Minnesota dance instructor Stephanie Smith, whose life was forever changed by an E. coli O157:H7 infection.

NICE:  Oyster expert Ed Cake, who helped Food Safety News following the April 20 BP oil spill and who continues to help us follow what’s happening with Gulf seafood.

NICE:  Dr. Dean Wyatt, the Food Safety and Inspection Service veterinarian who blew the whistle on USDA looking the other way the inhumane treatment of animals and violations of food safety.  Sadly, Dr. Wyatt succumbed last month to brain cancer.

NICE:  Bill Marler, food safety attorney and publisher of Food Safety News, for spending more time than even we thought he could dogging the U.S Senate for what appeared, at some points, to be a lost cause for food safety.  He proved again the old political maxim that winners are the ones who show up.

NICE:  Walmart, for not waiting for USDA to declare non-O157 toxin-producing strains of E. coli as adulterants and, on its own, requiring testing for those pathogens.

The Food Safety News Top 17 Stories of 2010:

1.  Food safety legislation that will give the FDA authority to recall contaminated food, test more widely for dangerous pathogens and improve its ability to trace outbreaks to their source was approved and sent to the President.

2.  Some regulatory proposals seemed to be on hold, or stuck in a bottleneck, at the USDA.

3.  Despite assurances to the contrary, questions remain about the safety of Gulf seafood, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

4.  The recall of more than 500 million eggs after health authorities traced Salmonella that sickened more than 1,900 to two Iowa producers.

5.  A dance instructor’s battle with E. coli after eating a contaminated hamburger brought a Pulitzer and a settlement.

6.  The seizure of raw-milk cheese from a Washington state farm contaminated with Listeria illustrated the emotional debate over whether food produced on small farms is safer than food produced by agribusiness.

7.  To solve a Salmonella Montevideo outbreak that infected 272 people in 44 states and Washington D.C., federal and state health authorities had to follow a pepper trail from a Rhode Island ready-to-eat meat company to Vietnam.

8.  Opponents of food safety regulation may feel threatened by what they imagine is heavy-handed government, but a report from the Inspector General found that except for meat, most food in this country goes uninspected.

9.  In the ongoing controversy over whether unpasteurized milk i
s a right or a public health hazard, Wisconsin’s governor vetoed a bill he thought was too lax and Minnesota shut down a raw milk dairy with sanitation problems after its E. coli-contaminated milk infected eight people.

10.  Dr. Elisabeth Hagen was given a recess appointment as Under Secretary for Food Safety and then finally confirmed by the Senate.

11.  Another non-O157:H7 E. coli bacteria–the toxic E. coli O145–turned up in Yuma lettuce field and led to recalls of Romaine in 24 states.

12.  Civil courts distributed insurance proceeds to victims and survivors of victims of the Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella outbreak, but there was still no criminal prosecution of PCA executives who allegedly knew their peanut butter was contaminated but shipped it anyway.

13.  A flavoring agent called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, was contaminated with Salmonella and brought about the recall of 177 products–the largest recall of a single ingredient in 2010.

14.  The FDA’s early detection tool, the Reportable Food Registry, proved to be a success.

15.  Wyoming toyed with a “food freedom” approach to food safety by considering legislation that would give “cottage foods” or other homemade products a free pass from regulation and oversight.

16.  It was sentiment vs. safety as Iowa wrestled with whether to exempt a popular restaurant from the state’s food code so that it could continue to make “loose meat” sandwiches with a potentially risky but long-used Maid-Rite cooking vessel.

17.  The Drudge report crashed the Food Safety News site.

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