Bill Marler’s Top Ten Food Safety Stories of 2008
Source of Article: http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20081219005746&newsLang=en
SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler (of Seattle foodborne illness powerhouse Marler Clark) polled his wide range of contacts in the food safety community, and assembled a list of the top ten food safety stories of 2008. Comments can be read (and made) at www.marlerblog.com.
1. Melamine in Chinese food products – where to
start? With the kids, of course. We first heard about melamine in Chinese
infant formula, resulting in heartbreaking numbers: 294,000 children
sickened, hundreds hospitalized, and at least six infants who lost their
lives. The crisis widened as melamine was found in candy, coffee, tea, and
numerous other Chinese products, sparking recalls, bans, and now the
2. Salmonella Saintpaul
in tomatoes—wait—peppers. A final count of 1,442 ill in 43 states, D.C., and
3. E. coli – In addition to the continued
rise of E. coli O157:H7 contamination in meat and other products like
leafy greens and raw dairy, 2008 saw non-O157 E. coli burst onto the
scene in an
4. Raw Milk - The food story that has pitted health advocates against health advocates in a debate that sometimes reached the level of a screaming-match. On one side, those who insist that raw milk has numerous healthful benefits destroyed by pasteurization, and on the other side, those who counter (me included) that the bacteria in raw milk can cause terrible illnesses, mostly in kids, (bacteria which is —you guessed it—killed by the pasteurization process), and believe the risk to the public outweighs the rights of consumption. The issue came to a head in California State Bill 201, which sought to set coliform (basically, bacteria) limits in raw milk production, among other things. Even though the bill hoped to address the issues of both camps, the protectors believed it would actually worsen the regulation problem. Both groups lobbied hard. There were movie stars. Sick kids. The bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
5. Listeria in Maple Leaf Deli Meats - Twenty
Canadians died and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were sickened by an outbreak
of Listeria in deli meats and soft cheeses. Most of the deaths were immunocompromised individuals: elderly, young, sick, or
pregnant. The story has raised much awareness not only about
6. Frozen, uncooked entrees resulting in illness - again. We found out that we’re a microwave culture, and habits are hard to break. Consumers were infected with Salmonella after consuming entrees that contained raw chicken products and were NOT supposed to be cooked in the microwave. But they look just like microwave entrees, and just about everything else is microwavable, so confusion is understandable. Will it be WARNINGS WRIT LARGE or just doing away with problem products?
7. Irradiation of fresh iceberg and raw spinach was approved by the FDA. Consumer confidence in the safety of raw leafy greens has been shaken by spinach and lettuce-borne outbreaks and existing sanitizing technology is clearly not enough. Although irradiation is no replacement for good agricultural practices, it appears to be a good addition to the food-safety tool kit. There has been a great deal of debate about the safety of the products once irradiated, a discussion that has as much to do with personal choice as it does scientific research. Clear labeling will allow consumers to make their own decisions.
8. Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella
Infections Caused by Contaminated Dry Dog Food. Well, it actually happened in
2006 and 2007 but was reported in 2008. The CDC, state health officials and
the FDA investigated this prolonged, multistate outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Schwarzengrund
infections. The source was identified as dry dog food produced at a
manufacturing plant in
9. Westland/Hallmark recall due to downer cows – This is on the list, in the last position, because many believed it was a food safety story, even though it technically wasn’t. An undercover video made by the Humane Society revealed that Chino-based Westland/Hallmark were slaughtering and selling the meat from “downer cows” - animals too sick to walk to slaughter. This is an absolute no-no, as cow sickness can mean bad meat. Because of the video and the resulting bru-ha-ha, 143 million pounds of beef was recalled – the largest meat recall in American history. Why is this not really a food safety story? Because no contaminated meat or illnesses were documented. But shining a spotlight on poor practice led to better practice, and that should lead to safer food.
10. There are still 13 days left in the year, so this one has been blank in the likely chance something will come up. If not, it will mean a happier holiday season for the American consumer as well as for those in the food safety community. Hats off to those who work hard year-round to keep the American food supply as safe as possible—here’s wishing you a quiet (and safe) season.
ABOUT MARLER CLARK: Marler
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