Food Safety Debate Heats Up as Foodborne Illness Victims Lobby for Stronger Food Laws

A front page story in the the New York Times Sunday paper on the devastating consequences of E. coli in the beef supply chain helped push food safety issues into mainstream public discourse, just as victims of foodborne illness head to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for stronger food laws.

The federal food safety system, which the Government Accountability Office deems “high-risk” for its haphazard regulation of the food supply, has started to grab mainstream media headlines.

Last month, Linda Rivera, a victim of the Nestle cookie dough E. coli outbreak, was featured on the front page of The Washington Post as she was in critical condition. She remains gravely ill and on a ventilator.

Media coverage of food safety issues, especially The Times piece last weekend, has ignited a firestorm of discussion from cab drivers to cabinet members.

Every major cable news network inquired about covering Stephanie Smith, the 22-year old girl featured in the New York Times article, who had her life ravaged by E. coli-tainted hamburger, according to Marler Clark LLP, the law firm representing Smith in her claim against Cargill.

Dozens of blogs including Obamafoodorama, the Federal Eye of the Washington Post and Food Politics by Marion Nestle responded to the article, as did several newspapers across the country.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture responded by writing a letter to Vilsack demanding accountability from large slaughterhouses. 

“I am writing to strongly urge the [USDA] and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to investigate the disturbing allegations that were revealed in Sunday’s New York Times article about the beef inspection process,” wrote DeLauro.

Vilsack offered his own formal statement in response to the article. “No priority is greater to me than food safety and I am firmly committed to taking the steps necessary to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness,” said Vilsack, who also outlined some key steps the USDA is taking to help ensure safe food.

Though the expose on meat regulation primarily raises USDA issues–the USDA regulates meat, poultry and eggs, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the rest of the food supply–media attention over the safety of the food supply will undoubtedly help push pending legislation aimed at ramping up FDA food oversight.

The increased attention has impeccable timing for the Make Our Food Safe Coalition’s food safety lobbying effort. Today, the coalition will be on the Hill in support of S. 510, an FDA food safety bill similar to the one that passed in the House in July.

Fifteen families from across the country who have been seriously affected by foodborne illness will meet with Senators and their staff to discuss the importance of the legislation.

S. 510 would increase FDA inspections of food processing plants, especially of high-risk facilities, require imports to meet U.S. safety standards, establish science-based minimum safety standards for growing fresh produce, and give the agency mandatory recall authority.

Though there is some speculation on the timing of the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has publicly indicated that the bill is a top priority once health care reform frees up some time in the Senate schedule. 

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is overseeing the bill, has also made public statements indicating he intends to move quickly after health care reform dies down.

Many consumer advocates remain hopeful that the bill will move through the Senate before the holidays.

  • HSR0601

    Obesity & Magic Pill :
    I personally recognize that wheat is a far better diet than meat on the ground it normally exits body with ease and rapidity, and we are well aware that our heath depends upon smooth metabolism and blood stream associated with the immune system and how important our daily workout is, as well.
    I still think the critical conditions mostly come from breach of our immune system, and the food that stays long in the body is more likely to become a source where germs, bacterias, viruses and the like multiply.
    Sounds outlandish, but wheat might be a principal “clean and healthy” food that has led western society to the most decent culture of all.
    Disadvantages of meat consumption :
    1. The food that stays long in the body looks more likely to become a source where germs, bacterias and the like multiply, which even gives birth to critical conditions involving prostate cancer.
    2. The consumption of meat proved lethal as earlier this year, the expansive, long-term release concluded about a third of more than 500,000 Americans aged 50-70 with this behavior tends to wind up with premature fatality caused by cancer, hypertension and more.
    3. The in-take of pork raises risks of catching swine flue and its mutation, costing around the initially estimated $2trillion dollars word-wide and endangering recovery,
    (( Genes included in the new swine flu have been circulating undetected in pigs for at least a decade, according to researchers who have sequenced the genomes of more than 50 samples of the virus. The findings suggest that in the future, pig populations will need to be monitored more closely for emerging influenza viruses, reported a team led by Rebecca Garten of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a report released by the journal Science.))
    Still, media downplay this fact out of small thinking to protect meat industry.
    4. All but media influenced by meat industry blame calorie for overweight or obesity rather than fat, I still think Fat equals Fat by definition and common sense.
    5. Hot dogs are often associated with food-borne illness. Though other food items carry listeria , FDA (Food and Drug Administration) studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria on hot dogs, processed meat and ready-to-eat meat products. And consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer
    The class-action consumer fraud lawsuit underway in New Jersey is based on a report from the American Institute for Cancer Research.
    Its findings included this fact: Consuming one 50-gram serving of processed meat (about the amount in one hot dog) every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent.
    Nitrites, used to keep hot dogs fresh, are the main culprit, according to the suit.
    While nitrites are commonly found in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery and green lettuce, the consumption of vegetables appears to be effective in reducing the risk of cancer. Because these vegetables also contain Vitamin C and D, which serve to inhibit the formation of carcinogenic compounds, they actually reduce your cancer risk.
    6. Two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which branch into so many different kinds of diseases, excess body fat increases risk for numerous cancers, costing up to $147 billion a year.
    7. America needs to put focus on a sustainable energy industry to become a lead exporter, in place of a fast food business where the overall loss outstrips gain more than known, from my stance.
    Provided the average temperature is getting higher, accordingly all forms of germs, bacterias, viruses, and influenza etc are more likely to multiply.
    Some skeptics say the warning against hazards of climate change is overstated, but judging from more frequent and widespread outbreaks of e. coli, salmonella, and bird, swine flu cases endangering human lives and economic recovery seriously, some prompt measures need to be taken, I guess.
    Also, Breathing toxic chemicals in the outdoor air exposes all Americans to a lifetime cancer risk at least 10 times greater than the level considered acceptable under federal law, shows new data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    Thank You !