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6/25
2009
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CDC 70 now Ill with E. coli O157:H7 Lined to Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough 30 Hospitalized, 7 with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)


Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/

According to the CDC, 70 persons infected with a strain of E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint (Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis - PFGE) have been reported from 30 states. Ill persons range in age from 2 to 65 years; however, 66% are less than 19 years old; 75% are female. Thirty persons have been hospitalized, 7 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Interestingly, this PFGE pattern has been seen on PulseNet before with over 300 being seen in last four years.

Of 70 linked in this outbreak, 41 have been confirmed by an advanced DNA test (likely MLVA, or Multiple Loci VNTR Analysis) as having the outbreak strain; these confirmatory test results are pending on the others. Most patients reported eating refrigerated prepackaged Nestle Toll House cookie dough products raw.

The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (2), California (3), Colorado (5), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Hawaii (1), Iowa (2), Illinois (5), Kentucky (3), Massachusetts (4), Maryland (2), Maine (3), Minnesota (6), Missouri (2), Montana (1), North Carolina (2), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), Nevada (2), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1), Texas (3), Utah (2), Virginia (2), Washington (5), and Wisconsin (1).

We have been contacted by over a dozen culture-confirmed cases in the last few weeks. We filed suit yesterday in California on behalf of and 18 year old young woman hospitalized for seven days and will be filing this morning on behalf of a Colorado 6 year old who developed HUS - acute kidney failure.

Questions and Answers About the Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough Recall by FDA

Colorado Child Sickened by E. coli Cookie Dough Files Lawsuit
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/

An E. coli lawsuit was filed today on behalf of a Denver-area child who became gravely ill with E. coli O157:H7 after eating refrigerated Nestle Toll House cookie dough. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Madison Sedbrook by her attorneys, William Marler of the Seattle-based foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark and Kara Knowles of the Denver firm Montgomery, Little, Soran, & Murray.

Six-year-old Madison ate Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough several times in mid-April, 2009. She began to experience flu-like symptoms including fatigue, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Not knowing the source of her illness, she continued to eat Nestle cookie dough, and by the first week of May, she had abdominal cramps, fever, and bloody diarrhea. Over the next several weeks, the family sought medical care several times for Madison¡¯s illness, which deepened in severity. She was admitted to the hospital and then released before being rushed back and admitted to pediatric intensive care. It was determined that Madison had hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a complication of her E. coli infection, which was not diagnosed until her second hospital stay. The genetic fingerprint of the E. coli O157:H7 found in her stool matches that of the nationwide outbreak tied to cookie dough.

¡°This child ? and this family ? have been through a terrible ordeal, not the least of which is how many times they sought care before E. coli was detected,¡± said Marler, who spoke from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) convention.. ¡°In order to detect and limit foodborne illness outbreaks, we have to make changes in our healthcare system; doctors and emergency health providers need to be encouraged to test for foodborne pathogens any time these symptoms ? especially bloody diarrhea - are present.¡±

On Monday, the CDC released updated information on the nationwide outbreak, which now encompasses 70 ill in 30 states. Thirty people have been hospitalized, and 7 have developed HUS. Almost seventy percent of the victims are female and under the age of 19. Nestle USA has voluntarily recalled the product, and stopped production at the facility that made it and are cooperating with FDA and CDC to pinpoint the cause.

¡°State health departments did a great job of getting to the bottom of this outbreak, and getting the word out,¡± continued Marler. ¡°But more resources are needed to speed the process up. Every day saved means dozens, maybe hundreds of families spared the Sedbrook family experience.¡±

ABOUT MARLER CLARK: William Marler has been a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad. His food safety blog, Marler Blog, is read by over 1,000,000 people around the world every year. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death. His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including recent testimony to US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce. In 1998, Mr. Marler formed the not for profit, Outbreak Inc. He spends much of the year speaking on how to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Posted on June 23, 2009 by Bill Marler

Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Eating Raw Refrigerated, Prepackaged Cookie Dough from CDC report

E. coli in Nestle cookie dough stumps FDA
source from : USA today
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Federal officials plan to stay in a Virginia food plant associated with a national food-borne outbreak "as long as it takes" to solve this mystery: How did E. coli O157:H7, most commonly associated with raw hamburger, get in refrigerated cookie dough?
"That's the $64,000 question," says David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration's assistant commissioner for food safety.

The outbreak appears to be linked to consuming uncooked Nestle refrigerated and frozen Toll House cookie dough products.
It has sickened 70 people nationwide, 30 of whom have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one has died. |
Nestle has recalled all product produced at the plant and suspended operations there. But cookies made from refrigerated dough are safe to eat, Nestle says. The company notes that the instructions "clearly state that the raw dough must be baked before consumption."
Theories on how E. coli got into the dough include cross-contamination or a sick worker, Acheson says. "For this particular bug, it doesn't take many (bacteria) to make you sick; 10 to 100 is enough."

How Did E. Coli Get Into Nestle's Cookie Dough?
By Alex Chasick, 3:57 PM on Wed Jun 24 2009, 5,371 views USA Today is reporting that the FDA is "stumped" by the presence of E. coli 0157:H7 in Nestle Tollhouse Cookie Dough, which was recalled last week. How does bacteria normally associated with raw ground beef find its way into our buckets of delicious cookie dough? Some speculation, inside.
Tests haven't yet confirmed the presence of E. coli in the cookie dough, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state officials, and reports of what victims ate suggest the cookie dough was the culprit.
E. coli sickness is usually the result of eating contaminated beef, especially ground beef, so it's left everyone confused how this could happen in cookie dough. Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who has litigated prominent E. coli cases offers, and rebuts, some hypotheses:
E. coli can contaminate milk; Wikipedia notes that it can get into milk from the udder or processing machines. It's unlikely that Nestle was using raw milk, though, and pasteurization would kill the bacteria.
E. coli can also be spread through poor hygiene by someone with the bacteria in his system (say by eating undercooked hamburger). An employee who didn't wash his hands after coming into contact with contaminated feces or anuses might be the source, but Marler doubts that it was an employee, given the size of the outbreak (illnesses have been reported in 29 states).
Marler notes that your typical dirty processing culprits, rats and mice, might have spread the bacteria, but warns that "always be aware that somewhere in the background likely lurks a cow." With milkfat and whey both on the list of ingredients, we wonder if either was responsible.

Don¡¯t eat that cookie dough¡¦
by: Brenda Sullivan | HTNP.com Editor Sunday, June 21st, 2009
Nestle USA¡¯s Baking Division has initiated a voluntary recall of Nestle¢ç Toll House¢ç refrigerated cookie dough products.

In a prepared statement, Nestle spokesmen said the company is taking this action, ¡°out of an abundance of caution,¡± after being notified that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with the Centers for Disease Control, are conducting an investigation into reported E. coli 0157:H7 illnesses that may be related to eating raw cookie dough.
¡°A number of consumers reporting illness reported consuming raw Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough,¡± the release states. ¡°While the E. coli strain implicated in this investigation has not been detected in our product, the health and safety of our consumers is paramount, so we are initiating this voluntary recall.¡±

No other Nestle Toll House products are involved in the recall (such as packaged Nestle cookies, chocolate morsals, baking bars or cocoa, or Dreyer¡¯s and Edy¡¯s ice cream products that include Nestle cookie dough ingredients).
Eating raw cookie dough of any kind is generally not a good practice, and Nestle products do include a warning on their packages.
¡°We want to strongly advise consumers that raw cookie dough should not be eaten. This message also appears prominently on our packaging,¡± the release states.
Anyone who has purchased Nestle Toll House cookie dough is encouraged to return the product to their local store for a refund.
Questions should be referred to Nestle Consumer Services, at 1-800-559-5025 or visit the Web site at www.verybestbaking.com.
The products involved in the voluntary recall include all varieties of Nestle Toll House refrigerated Cookie Bar Dough, Cookie Dough Tub; Cookie Dough Tube; Limited Edition Cookie Dough items; Seasonal Cookie Dough and Ultimates Cookie Bar Dough.For the list of specific varieties being recalled, click on this link http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm167954.htm

Consumer confidence in food manufacturers plunges, says survey
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/
By Rory Harrington, 24-Jun-2009
New research from the United States suggests that consumer confidence in food companies has plummeted after less than one in five said they trusted firms to develop and sell healthy products.
The survey, conducted by IBM, also found that 60 per cent of people are actively concerned about the safety of food they purchase, while trust in food manufacturers to handle food recalls properly has fallen.
The authors noted: ¡°Consumers are increasingly wary of the safety of food purchased at grocery stores, and their confidence in - and trust of - food retailers, manufacturers and grocers is declining.¡±
Customers are demanding more information on the products they buy and purchasing habits have also shifted as people are prepared to pay more for higher quality food, said the researchers.

Debilitating impact of recalls
The damaging impact of food contamination scares and subsequent recalls on company products was highlighted as a major concern. Almost half of the 1,000 people interviewed across 10 US cities said they would be less likely to buy something that had been the subject of a recall.
Over 80 per cent of respondents were able to name a food product that had been recalled in the past two years, with 46 per cent citing peanut butter. Spinach was the next most recognizable food scare with awareness running at 15 per cent two years on.
Almost two thirds would not buy food involved in a recall until the source of the contamination had been identified and rectified and 8 per cent declared they would never buy the product again.
¡°These findings underscore how the rise in recalls and contamination has significantly eroded consumer confidence in food and product safety, as well as with the companies that manufacture and distribute these products¡±, said the survey.

A question of trust
Only 55 per cent of people said they trusted food manufacturers when dealing with a recall of a tainted food product. The report said this showed a ¡°decrease in their level of trust over the past two years¡±. However, it added that 72 per cent of customers have faith in retailers to properly handle a food recall.
Some 57 per cent of consumers said they had stopped buying certain foods on safety concerns ? even for a short time.

Discerning consumers
Consumer appetite for information about food products has increased over the last two years - with 77 per cent eager for more information on ingredients and 76 per cent interested in it origin. Almost three quarters are prepared to do more research into how the food products are grown, processed and manufactured, said the study.
However, the authors warned: ¡°Despite industry efforts to keep consumers informed with more detailed product information, there's still a significant gap between consumer expectations and what retailers/manufacturers are providing. ¡°

Nestle Recall Leaves A Mystery in Its Wake
Source of Article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
Officials Probe E. Coli Link to Cookie Dough
by Lyndsey Layton and Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 21, 2009

Federal microbiologists and food safety investigators have descended on the Danville, Va., plant that makes Nestle's refrigerated cookie dough, trying to crack a scientific mystery surrounding a national outbreak of illness from E. coli 0157, a deadly strain of bacteria, which has been linked to the product.
Health officials and food producers puzzled yesterday over how E. coli 0157, a bacterium that lives in the intestines of cattle, could have ended up in a product that seems so unlikely to contain it. "It's a fascinating outbreak," said Craig Hedberg, an expert on food-borne diseases at the University of Minnesota. "By just looking at package labeling, there is no reason you would expect an event like this to occur."

The outbreak, which has sickened at least 65 people in 29 states, is the latest worry for consumers in the Washington area and across the country unnerved by a wave of food-borne illnesses, including botulism associated with canned chili and infections from salmonella linked to peanut products. With cookie dough, like peanut butter, being a favorite of children, the latest outbreak is particularly alarming because the young and the elderly are more likely to develop severe complications if infected with E. coli 0157. More than two-thirds of the 65 victims are younger than 19, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None has died.

Two of the victims live in Maryland, and two live in Virginia, the CDC reported. Their identities have not been revealed. In supermarkets yesterday, Nestle products had been pulled from the refrigerated section, and consumers were left to ponder the safety of the U.S. food system. "When I heard about the recall, I thought, 'Is nothing safe anymore?' " said Carole Feld, a D.C. resident who has a 13-year-old child, pushing a shopping cart through a Glover Park Whole Foods Market yesterday. "If bacteria has gotten into Nestle's Toll House cookie dough, then everything is suspect." David Evans, who was shopping in a Safeway in McLean with stepdaughter Kelly Ready, said that when he heard about the recall, he immediately checked to see whether there was any of the suspect cookie dough -- which Kelly, 14, said she sometimes eats raw -- in his home. There wasn't.

"I think [the food supply] is basically safe," Evans said. "But we need tighter controls, though I'm not a believer in big government." The outbreak comes as the federal government is attempting to revamp the nation's outdated food safety system. President Obama has identified food safety as a priority, and Congress is moving legislation that would place new requirements on food manufacturers while beefing up the Food and Drug Administration's inspection and enforcement powers. A key House committee passed legislation last week that could be voted on as early as this week, and a companion bill is pending in the Senate. Nestle has a solid reputation within the food industry for manufacturing practices designed to prevent contamination. The company has cooperated fully with the investigation, said David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food safety at the FDA.

Nestle recalled all its refrigerated Toll House cookie dough products, or about 300,000 cases, on Friday, within 24 hours of being notified by the FDA that it suspected a problem, said Laurie MacDonald, a vice president at Nestle USA. The company also suspended operations at the Danville plant that day, she said. About 500 people work at the plant, which is a major employer in the small community near the North Carolina border. Nestle, which has a 41 percent share of the prepared cookie dough market, has not estimated the cost of the recall, MacDonald said. Investigators have not confirmed the presence of E. coli 0157 in any Nestle product; they are testing samples of dough collected from the plant as well as from victims. But William E. Keene, chief epidemiologist for the state of Oregon, said he was "100 percent" certain that the culprit was the cookie dough. "Virtually everyone [who got sick] ate the same brand of cookie dough," he said. "I have absolute confidence in the conclusion." Because the appearance of E. coli 0157 in cookie dough is so unusual, investigators are looking at a broad range of possible factors, analyzing the ingredients, the plant's equipment and interior, the health of workers and whether the facility is located near cattle. Federal officials are also considering whether the dough might have been intentionally contaminated.

State health officials first noticed cases of E. coli 0157 emerging in March. Initially, they suspected ground beef or strawberries. But after interviewing victims, state officials and the CDC compared notes during a conference call Tuesday and settled on the refrigerated cookie dough as the prime suspect. The risk usually associated with cookie dough is salmonella, a bacteria that can be found in raw eggs contained in the dough. Nestle's cookie dough is packaged with labels warning consumers not to eat it raw. But people tend to disregard the warning -- 39 percent of consumers eat raw cookie dough, according to Consumer Reports. It has become such a popular snack that many ice cream makers have developed a cookie dough flavor. William Marler, a prominent food safety lawyer in Seattle who is representing six of the E. coli 0157 victims, said Nestle's warning label is not a defense. "It doesn't absolve them of liability," he said.

E. coli refers to many kinds of bacteria, most of which are harmless or even beneficial. But certain types, including E. coli 0157, produce a toxin that can cause severe illness and even death in humans. The E. coli 0157 bacterium lives in the intestines of cows and other animals -- goats, sheep, deer and elk -- and is found most often in ground beef. But over the past decade, a number of E. coli 0157 illness outbreaks have been associated with green, leafy produce, such as spinach.

"Food-borne diseases are generally a moving target," Hedberg said. "We can't get too comfortable thinking we know how these organisms behave."

Tests Indicate Salmonella at Two ND Events
Source of Article: http://www.kfyrtv.com/News_Stories.asp?news=31341

North Dakota health officials say preliminary tests show salmonella bacteria sickened more than 40 people at two private events last weekend. A Health Department statement says at least nine people have been hospitalized, including two in intensive care, after attending either a weekend reunion in Wilton or a wedding in Washburn that was catered by an unlicensed caterer. Health officials say at least 20 other people sought care at emergency rooms or clinics for such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. State Epidemiologist Kirby Kruger says preliminary tests indicate the illness was caused by salmonella bacteria.

FDA Clearance for New Rapid Campylobacter Test
source from : rapidmicrobiology.com

Meridian Bioscience, Inc. has received FDA clearance for a new rapid test for Campylobacter, ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY. This new test provides fast and accurate detection of Campylobacter bacteria, one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness.There is a real need for the ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY because of its simplified, easy to perform procedure that provides patient results in 20 minutes. In addition, ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY provides a solution to several concerns associated with culture testing, currently the most commonly practiced lab technique for detecting the Campylobacter bacteria. With culture, there is a potential for reduction in sensitivity due to variable culturing procedures, specimen viability, and inhibitory antibiotics in culture media. ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY dramatically reduces these concerns with a consistent method that measures the bacterial antigen instead of measuring the viability of this fragile bacteria in an environment that is less inhibitory than current culturing procedures.

John A. Kraeutler, Chief Executive Officer, stated, ¡°ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY is a significant addition to our foodborne category because it provides laboratories with a rapid, accurate and easy to perform platform for the detection of Campylobacter. This innovative assay, along with Meridian's Premier¢â CAMPY and toxigenic E. coli tests, demonstrates Meridian¢¥s emerging leadership in foodborne testing. ImmunoCard STAT!¢ç CAMPY is already in distribution by Meridian Bioscience Europe for the Company¢¥s European markets and was also recently approved for sale in Canada.¡±

FSA to investigate anecdotal aspartame reactions
Source of Article: http://www.confectionerynews.com/The-Big-Picture/FSA-to-investigate-anecdotal-aspartame-reactions

By Jess Halliday, 23-Jun-2009
The UK¡¯s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is seeking individuals who believe they have suffered a reaction to aspartame to take part in a pilot study.
Aspartame is commonly used in diet and low calorie food products, including soft drinks and chewing gums. It has been permitted for use in Europe since the 1980s. Although some studies have suggested possible adverse effects, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has scrutinised their methodology and findings and has repeatedly reaffirmed its view that aspartame is safe. Most recently it said this April, after looking at a study that linked regular intake of the sweetener with increased risk of certain cancers, that it sees no need to alter the acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg bw/day. However anecdotal evidence of ill effects, including headaches and upset stomachs, continues to circulate amongst the general public and online. In view of this, the FSA is now planning to conduct tests on some individuals who report symptoms in a pilot study that will be used to inform the design and feasibility of a larger study proposed by EFSA.

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA, stressed that the agency¡¯s view that aspartame is safe still holds and it is not proposing to test the sweetener¡¯s safety once again. ¡°However we know that some people consider they react badly to consuming this sweetener so we think it is important to increase our knowledge about what is happening.¡± A spokesperson for the agency gave a comparison with peanuts, saying that some people may have a reaction, but that does not mean peanuts are unsafe for the general population. Part of the study may involve trying to establish a mechanism, or seeing whether the effects that the individuals put down to aspartame could, in fact, have other roots.

The planned study will involve participants being invited on two occasions to consume a specially developed food product that may or may not contain aspartame, in a clinical setting and under medical supervision. Researchers will then record any symptoms and take a blood sample to measure biochemical parameters.

Industry reaction

However major aspartame producer Ajinomoto has expressed its surprise that the FSA is initiating this study, given its re-confirmation that it has no concerns about the safety. It said that anecdotal reports linking aspartame to health conditions ¡°include rumours circulated on the internet by scaremongers and conspiracy theorists, mostly from the United States¡±. The company cited the position of food safety experts in New Zealand, who said in August 2007 that ¡°the claims being made ? and widely reported in the media ? are doing a great public disservice¡±.

However Wadge set out the role he sees for anecdotal evidence in science in his blog on the FSA website yesterday:

¡°What role does ¡®anecdotal evidence¡¯ play in science? Truly anecdotal evidence is not evidence in the scientific sense, it¡¯s observation, it¡¯s often subjective, and the effects seen may be due to a number of factors all varying at the same time. Observation can help us towards understanding certain issues, but is a first step towards a testable hypothesis, not an end in itself.

¡°Therefore, anecdotal reports do sometimes deserve closer examination, especially when a number of unrelated people are reporting similar things.¡±

Individuals wanting to find out more or get involved can email aspartame@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

AMI Details Industry Advancements in Listeria Control At FSIS Public Hearing on Retail Risk Assessment
Source of Article: http://www.meatami.com/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/51139

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) has been the catalyst for more changes in the processed meat industry than any other event in the last 30 years and the establishment of effective and attainable protection plans has been key to the industry¡¯s successful evolution to a high level of control, according to John Butts, vice president of research at Land O¡¯ Frost.

Butts spoke on behalf of the American Meat Institute Foundation at a Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) public meeting on its Interagency Retail Lm Risk Assessment. FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have initiated a joint interagency risk assessment that will evaluate the dynamics of Lm contamination in retail facilities.

Butts shared with the committee the lessons learned by the meat industry during the evolution of the industry¡¯s Listeria control efforts. Butts also detailed the impact of the AMI Board vote in 1999 to make food safety a non-competitive issue and encourage collaborative problem-solving among members of the industry.

¡°Declaring food safety ¡®non competitive¡¯ and sharing the process control ¡®best practices¡¯ were key in the industry¡¯s successful evolution to a high level of control,¡± Butts told those attending the roundtable discussion.

Since 2000, the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat products has been reduced by 74 percent to less than 0.4 percent, Butts said. Butts also noted that since 2003 there have been no USDA-inspected plants linked to a Listeria illness investigation.

Butts said that as the scope of control evolves, there are some pitfalls to avoid, including punishment?either regulatory or corporate?for finding a problem. Butts also expressed his opposition to prescriptive government programs.

¡°Given room for discovery and continuous improvement, like habit-forming, change will be slow and gradual,¡± Butts said.

Butts also warned that there are some missing gaps between data from the meat processors to public health illnesses that should be considered when moving forward.

¡°AMI and the processed meats industry remain committed to solving the food safety problems associated with our products from the farm to the fork,¡± Butts concluded.

Marler - Talk With Phil Brasher: Safety Rules Burden Smaller Farmers?

Source of Article: http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=324931

The foodie/organic/raw/local/small farmer blogs are alive with conspiracy theories (real or imagined) about the reasons behind the moves in Congress to finally try to make our food supply safer. Some see the evil hand of Monsanto, Cargill, etc., and their minions in Congress, as trying to crush the organic, small farmer by enacting ¡°one size fits all¡± rules. Others see that the administration and Congress have finally noticed that 76,000,000 of our citizens are sickened by food each year in the US and may actually try and do something. True? False? Perhaps a little of both?

Last week I had a long chat with the Dean of Agriculture reporters, Phil Brasher, about the risks to ¡°small-scale farmers and organic growers [who] say those standards can force them to choose between selling to supermarkets and schools or else following practices that degrade the soil and require more synthetic chemical ¡¦ [that] ¡¦ farmers worry that food-safety bills being considered in Congress could make matters more difficult.¡± As I said:

Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents victims of food poisonings, said safety standards shouldn't be weaker for small farms. Should kids get sick at school from contamination linked to a small farm, parents will ask why the farm didn't meet the standards required of bigger suppliers, he said. "We all need to figure out a way, whether you're a big player or a small player, that you're treated fairly, that you're inspected fairly and the product you're producing, whether big or small, has the least chance of poisoning some kids," Marler said. "That's not easy."

Not easy, but not impossible. It is time to actually engage in a reasoned discussion instead of a shouting match across the blogs. Food safety should be important whether you¡¯re a small or large producer of food for supermarkets or schools. The discussion should not be that food safety regulations should be less concerned about producing safe food if you¡¯re a small farmer. Small or large, producers of food should be concerned about what we feed our neighbors and kids.

Perhaps we need to look hard at stopping the environmental degradation caused by mass-produced, factory farming ? overuse of pesticides, antibiotics and energy ? in the production food? Perhaps we need to look hard at localizing and regionalizing our food supply while at the same time making it safe and sustainable? Perhaps we need to focus at changing how we get our food while still making it safe for parents who buy the food at the local supermarket or kids that eat in our school lunch rooms?

So, ideas? I've been blogging about ideas for a long time. Heck, I've even applied for a job - "Hey, Mr. President, call me, I'll work for peanuts."

So, engage the President, FSIS, FDA and Congress in a dialog about how to fix the problem of creating a safe, sustainable, fair food supply. For me, there can be no compromise on food safety - I have seen too much to give slack to Cargill or to a local farmer who supplies my grocery store or my kid's school. Sure, some rules will need to be adjusted to reflect economic realities. However, regardless of your size, if you poison someone with your products it is wrong.

We - all of us - need to figure out what our goals are and move fairly and openly towards solving the problems plaguing our food supply. So, stop with the conspiracies and roll up your sleeves and dig in the garden of politics, you might actually find it fruitful.

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