Food Safety News to provide $25,000 scholarship for consumer advocacy.

In less than two weeks (on Sept. 14), the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, headed by Representatives Dingell (D-MI), Waxman (D-CA), and Stupak (D-MI), will hold what has become an annual event–yet another hearing on the failings of the food industry to provide consumers safe food.

In 2007 the Committee held hearings on the 2006 E. coli outbreak from contaminated spinach that sickened 205 and killed five.  Shortly thereafter, the hearings were on Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter that sickened 714.  In 2008 the Committee focused on the massive recall of some 143,000,000 pounds of meat.  In 2009, it was peanut butter with Salmonella again, this time sickening hundreds and killing nine.

Of course, during that same three-year period, dozens of other outbreaks–some just as bad or worse–happened with little notice by anyone other than the victims and their families.  And if the CDC is to be believed, during those three years of Committee work 228,000,000 Americans were sickened by food consumption, 975,000 were hospitalized, and 15,000 died.

I attended each of the Committee hearings in 2007, 2008, and 2009.  In 2007 and 2009 I went to support clients who were attending to tell their story of a tragically sickened child or parent, or the pain at the death of a loved one–because they ate food.  In 2008, I asked the Committee to move on food safety legislation to “put me out of business” as a lawyer representing these people.

The theater of the committee hearings tends to fit a pattern.  Grave Congress members chastise food-manufacturing executives for poisoning consumers (and voters) and belittle federal officials for not preventing the incident (although they have no budget to do so) in the first place.  Invariably one of the lawmakers asks a victim–a mom whose 2-year-old nearly died from eating E. coli-contaminated spinach or the son of a triple Purple Heart winner who died after consuming Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter, “What do you think we should do to prevent this?”

Almost as entertaining as Congress members’ questions is the audience.   Most of those who sit for the three hours are paid to do so.  For the most part, they are the herds of lawyers for the companies being questioned, lobbyists representing the particular company or industry under fire, and of course, the obligatory consumer groups.

What is absent from the mix is an audience filled with consumers who have been affected directly by the poisoned product du jour.  This gave me an idea.   Food Safety News will provide travel expenses, up to $25,000 total, for those who have been linked to the recent Salmonella enteriditis egg outbreak.  For those in the Pacific Time Zone, $1,500 per person is available, for the Mountain Time Zone $1,200, for the Central Time Zone, $1,000 and for the Eastern Time Zone, $500.  Anyone interested should email me at this week to make arrangements.

My hope would be that replacing lobbyists and lawyers at the hearing with people who have suffered from foodborne illness recently would give the Committee a flavor for what is real outside the Washington Beltway.

  • Strend

    It’s time for the EPA and the USDA to stop the food borne illness/s of e-coli and salmonella. They know darn well where all of this is coming from and refuse to admit that it is coming from LIVING microorganisms being used in the place of chemicals; for pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, mycocides… etc. These are called bio control products (biopesticides, biofungicides, bioinsecticides, etc.
    EVERY darn one of the crops that have had e coli and/or salmonella detected HAVE HAD bio control products used on them.
    IF the THE EPA-OFFICE OF PESTICIDE PROGRAMS; BIOPESTICIDES AND POLLUTION PREVENTION DIVISION does not fear contamination from bio control products; then why does the EPA Form 8570-6 state:
    QUOTE: “After fermentation and prior to further processing, each batch must be tested for the following microbial contaminants and have levels below those listed”:
    •”E. coli Coliform Bacteria”
    Now, we are recalling of eggs because of salmonella. Well, here we go again…. with LIVING microorganisms BEING USED IN CHICKEN FEED; with full approval of the EPA AND USDA.
    “Why” you may ask, is this being concealed? Because it was us; the United States who shoved GMO’s down the rest of the worlds throats. In 2003 the United States sued the European Union because the EU didn’t want GMO’s. The World Trade Organization intervened and the EU gave in.
    You would be SHOCKED just HOW MANY of the government officials in the United States have stock in the very biotechnology companies that put these bio control products on the market. And some of these bio control products are being manufactured outside of the the United States borders for American biotech companies.
    The contamination of our food is not going to stop until we hold the government officials accountable.

  • bob

    With the World’s population approaching 8 billion, the work of M&C and FSN is just beginning…

  • publichealth

    Please take a deep breath. Now read some interesting FACTS as opposed to your conspiracy theory.
    Salmonella is nothing new. Did you know that evidence shows that Alexander the Great died of Salmonella poisoning (aka Salmonellosis) in 323 BC? Something that just came out of our recent “governmental officials” not doing something right? Please.
    Salmonella is RARELY present inside of eggs – most of the time it’s on the outside, you know, from the butt/feces thing going on. Salmonella is prevalent in the guts of many animals (mammals, reptiles, insects, etc too). Even then, the “expected/normal” illness rate is around 0.5% for eggs. Know what the rate is of people dying from heart disease because they don’t eat right and exercise? Hm, who is responsible for that?
    What I’ve always found fascinating is that no one ever points the finger back at the consumer. Ever. In some cases (like the tomato or spinach recalls a couple years ago) there’s no excuse – that stuff should be safe. But for things like eggs or ground beef recalls, do you know why we cook things? 1) Tastes better, and 2) to eliminate stuff like E. coli and Salmonella. Why shouldn’t we ask the consumers “hey, did you wash your hands after you handled those eggs” or “did you cook your ground beef to 160 degrees?” Don’t get me wrong, bacteria don’t belong in food. But if everyone would handle food properly, we might be singing a different tune. Do you have a food thermometer at home? Why shouldn’t we all share in some of the responsibility for safety?
    Oh, did you know that Typhoid is caused by a strain of Salmonella? Remember the Typhoid outbreak during the Spanish-American war? Made about 21k of our troops sick, killed about 1600 of them. Not due to chicken feed or eggs or whatever. Poopie hands not being washed and sewage coming in contact with clean water/food.
    Anyway, just “food” for thought.