Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Continuing Salmonella Outbreaks

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One of the ways that the Federal and state governments spend taxpayer money is by making sure our food is safe. (For every American killed by a terrorist, 110 are killed by contaminated food.) I think that’s a good use of government funds, though of course the food industry prefers voluntary guidelines, which they can then ignore, just as Foster Farms is doing. The NY Times has a good editorial:

Months after salmonella-contaminated chicken distributed by a California company sickened people, the dangerous food is still being sold around the country. This disturbing situation is the result of weak federal regulatory powers and the company’s irresponsibility.

The episode is especially dangerous because the seven strains of salmonella bacteria involved in the outbreak are resistant to antibiotics, in some cases to multiple antibiotics. As of Friday, 338 people have been reported as infected by the seven strains in 20 states, with most of the infections in California. No deaths have been reported, but 40 percent of the patients needed to be hospitalized.

Consumers became ill as early as March 1; it was not until late June, however, that the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a unit of the Department of Agriculture, was notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a salmonella outbreak in four states. Investigators traced the likely source of the problem to raw chicken products from three Foster Farms facilities in California. On Oct. 7 the F.S.I.S. issued a “public health alert” warning people to handle raw poultry carefully and cook it well. The agency also required Foster Farms to submit plans to prevent persistent salmonella contamination. The company did so and was allowed to keep operating under an enhanced inspection process.

The F.S.I.S. did not ask or order the company to recall any of its products. Instead, the agency told the public to look for numbers on the chicken packaging identifying the three facilities in case they wanted to avoid Foster Farms’ products. Nor did the company recall any products, claiming they were safe if handled and cooked properly. Still, some stores are pulling the chicken from those three plants from their shelves, though many retailers are not, according to consumer advocates.

Aaron Lavallee, a spokesman for F.S.I.S., said that under statutes and case law, the agency cannot compel a recall in the Foster Farms case with the current evidence. Congress should hold hearings to determine if the Agriculture Department and its food safety service need more power to protect the public from potentially serious harm.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2013 at 10:53 am

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