Tomorrow the CDC will update the Romaine E. coli outbreak and probably say that it is “over” (last time it updated was May 16th). The numbers will also likely jump from 172 to 200 and the death toll will rise too (this is all too similar to the 2006 E. coli spinach outbreak that was supposed to end these outbreaks). The hospitalization rate will hover around 60 percent, as will the percentage of women sickened be around 70 percent. HUS (acute kidney failure) cases will rise as well.

In the FDA blog post Thursday by FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Setphen Ostroff somewhat threw up their hands and said that a primary source (a specific cause) of the outbreak might never be found. They did post a fancy graphic that was high on confusion but absent of any real detail – like the names of who grew, processed, shipped and sold (grocery stores and restaurants) the E. coli-tainted romaine.

How helpful is that to the public?

It made me think of Doc Raymond.

Here was something that Doc wrote several weeks ago about FDA’s failure to name names:

Why not name the brand and the stores it was sold in?

Oh, right, proprietary, confidential corporate information (CCI). Protect the companies, not the public.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture started naming retail outlets for meat and poultry products contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens in 2008. Industry was not happy, but it was the right thing to do to protect the public’s health. Ten years later FDA still refuses to inform us if we are at risk or not.

FDA’s top leafy greens scientist says this is no problem, as the Arizona growing season is coming to an end and the shelf-life of precut lettuce is very short. He is even quoted as saying the leaves will start turning brown after one week of being precut, so most of it will be discarded very shortly.

Boy howdy, that makes me feel really good about that romaine lettuce in my crisper right now.

In 2008 Doc did the right thing for transparency and for public health.  I’ll save this for another day, but Doc’s focus on making everyone visible and accountable has saved lives.  By doing the right thing he pissed off the food industry from top to bottom.  It unquestionably cost him the lucrative post-public service gigs that one gets when they do the opposite.

So here is to Doc for “draining the swamp” before that was even popular. Dr. Gottlieb and Dr. Ostroff, what will be your legacy?

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