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for Obama to fill 'food czar' job at USDA
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Calls from consumer advocates and politicians are growing louder for
the Obama administration to name an undersecretary for food safety at
the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service,
a position unfilled for more than a year.
It's a job with little glory but a lot of responsibility: keeping the
meat, poultry, catfish and some eggs America eats safe by overseeing
9,000 inspectors who visit 7,000 slaughter and processing plants daily.
The agency needs to overhaul its methods and set tough new standards
for testing, consumer advocates say. Some fights they say only an undersecretary-level
appointee can undertake include:
meat, which can push E. coli O157:H7 and salmonella deep into steaks
and chops where cooking doesn't easily kill it, labeled so consumers
know it shouldn't be eaten rare. A current outbreak linked to this type
of meat has sickened 21 people.
?Giving the USDA the right to name not just grocery stores that have
sold recalled meat, but also restaurants.
?Using live video to monitor animals in pens, allowing short-staffed
inspectors to do more.
News that last week the Obama administration appointed well-known food-safety
expert Michael Taylor to a new position, as deputy commissioner for
foods, at the Food and Drug Administration, only increased the volume
of those calls.
Last year alone, food-borne illnesses caused 5,000 deaths, and the FSIS
forced 59 recalls of suspect food, says Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "It
is essential that we include food safety on the list of the critical
issues that need to be addressed, and that means appointing an undersecretary
as soon as possible," DeLauro says.
Congress is trying to put its stamp on food safety with bills to overhaul
both the FDA and USDA, but leadership roles are crucial, too, experts
The undersecretary, a political appointee confirmed by Congress, can
push for change in ways difficult for career USDA staffers, says Richard
Raymond, who held the job until September 2008.
Potential candidates whose names have been floated for the position
have included Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious
Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; Michael
Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia;
and Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for
Science in the Public Interest.
Currently the position is held by acting undersecretary Jerold Mande,
but Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has moved "aggressively"
to fill it, says USDA's Caleb Weaver. FSIS is making headway in food
safety, despite lack of a head, he says.
level of Campylobacter on retail chicken
Posted on January 15, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Trent Rowe reported yesterday on TheLedger.com about the disturbing
prevalence of campylobacter on chicken purchased at retail.
Most of the chickens we buy in supermarkets are contaminated with Salmonella
and/or Campylobacter bacteria. They make us sick.
Consumer Reports checked 382 chickens from 100 stores around the country
and found the bacteria in about two-thirds of the birds.
Only 34 percent of the birds had neither bug.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention show that
the bacteria from food sources infect 3.4 million Americans a year,
resulting in 25,500 hospital cases and 500 deaths.
Unfortunately, odds are, the uncooked chicken you've got in your refrigerator
or freezer at home is contaminated with something that can make you
very sick, or kill you if you're a particularly susceptible person.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Campylobacter and chicken, just
like E. coli O157 and beef, is not a bacteria found in the animal's
muscle tissues. Chickens and cows alike harbor the bugs that can make
us sick in their gastrointestinal tract. So, just like E. coli and beef,
the problem boils down to food manufacturers keeping feces off of edible
This is exactly what the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS),
which is the branch of USDA responsible for meat, eggs, and poultry,
is trying to achieve with its newly adopted performance standards in
chickens and turkeys. Even though we won't get to zero, it seems like
the industry should be able to lower the contamination level from "most
of the birds you buy are contaminated."
FSIS to Test Ammoniated Beef for E. coli
by Helena Bottemiller | Jan 19, 2010
In the wake of a New York Times expose, which scrutinized the widespread
use of ammoniated meat in ground beef products, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
announced in a directive that it will no longer exclude the chemically-treated
beef from testing regulations.
The directive provides new directions for FSIS personnel on how to implement
routine sampling of ammoniated, or "pH enhanced," beef products
for E. coli O157:H7 in raw beef products.
Though FSIS did not indicate in the directive when the new testing protocol
will become mandatory, the notice indicates a significant shift in how
the agency regulates the chemically treated beef.
As the New York Times piece indicated at the end of December, ammoniated
beef, manufactured by Beef Products Inc., had been previously excluded
from testing requirements because the ammonia is supposed to raise the
pH levels in the meat to kill off pathogens.
According to The Times, the USDA decided in 2007 that the ammonia process
was so effective they exempted the treated beef--which is widely used
by major fast food chains and the USDA National School Lunch Program--from
routine pathogen testing.
However, The Times, citing government and industry testing records,
reported that the treated beef was found contaminated with E. coli and
Salmonella dozens of times over the past few years.
The Times findings have put considerable pressure on USDA officials
to revisit the issue.
It remains to be seen whether FSIS' decsion to implement a testing program
will be enough to dampen concerns over the ammoniated beef process.
Though The Times piece focused on the efficacy of the process--it clearly
found that the ammonia did not always kill dangerous pathogens effectively--there
was considerable consumer outrage over the simple fact that ammonia
was used in beef products to begin with.
Twitter, for example, continues to be abuzz over the findings.
"Yummy! Ammonia treated pink slime in most US ground beef,"
"Gross! No more ground beef for me," "Have some ammonia
with your beef, maybe some E. coli too?" were among the thousands
of comments in the twittersphere.
Despite the apparent yuck factor, the Associated Press reported recently
that the big buyers of ammoniated beef--McDonalds, Burger King, and
Cargill--were undeterred by the article and will continue to purchase
the treated beef.
U.S. Dept. of
Agriculture Issues Second Beef Recall of 2010: Take It Seriously!
Posted on January 19, 2010 by Bill Marler
Food Safety Advocate and Attorney Bill Marler encourages everyone?especially
parents?to never use ANY food that¡¯s been recalled
The year may be young but beef recalls because of potential E. coli
O157:H7 contamination are in full swing. In light of the two recalls
already issued in 2010, food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler
has issued a strong warning to consumers?throw away or return that meat!
¡°There¡¯s a lot of misinformation about tainted meat and E. coli?many
seem to believe that proper cooking practices will make it safe to eat.
This is simply not the case. Safe preparation is always necessary, but
tainted meat can make you sick no matter how it¡¯s cooked,¡± said Marler.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a recall on
864,000 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli
O157:H7. The meat was packaged by Montebello, Calif.-based Huntington
Meat Packing and sold to consumers under the Huntington, Imperial Meat,
and El Rancho brands. Some of the meat in question was sold almost two
years ago. This is the second beef recall of 2010?the first came on
January 11 and was initiated by the Massachusetts Department of Health
over 2,500 pounds of beef from Adams Farm Slaughterhouse, LLC.
So what do you do if you¡¯re worried or think you may have beef covered
under this recall? Marler provides these suggestions:
1. Go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp
for the latest in food recalls issued by the USDA.
2. Check any meat or food products you have for the information listed
in recalls including brand names, packaging stamps, and distribution
3. If you find you¡¯re in possession of meat or a food product that¡¯s
apart of a recall, throw away or return the product immediately. You
do not need your receipt to return food products under a recall.
Most importantly, Marler
stresses, NEVER try to use the meat in question. Just because no one
has gotten sick yet that doesn¡¯t mean the product is safe.
¡°Once a recall has been issued that means there¡¯s definite cause for
concern and no manner of safe cooking practices will make the product
edible,¡± says Marler. ¡°While everyone should take this recall seriously,
parents should take special note as E. coli tends to affect children
and the elderly in greater severity and numbers.¡±
Marler also takes issue with when this most recent?and several others
like it?have been issued: over a holiday weekend when not nearly as
many people are paying attention to news reports. This is dangerous
because fewer people are made aware that a recall has been issued, which
could potentially put individuals and families at unnecessary risk.
As Marler wrote on his blog, www.marlerblog.com, on Tuesday morning:
¡°I need to hand it to the FSIS, I am beginning to lose track how often
its recall notices go out on either a Friday night or on a holiday.
They sure have learned to get bad news out when no one is watching.¡±
Rep. Delauro calls for Independent Food Safety Advisory Board
Posted on January 19, 2010 by Bill Marler
Washington, DC? Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) released the following
statement today in reaction to the recall of approximately 864,000 pounds
of beef products potentially contaminated with E. coli by the Montebello,
California-based company Huntington Meat Packing Inc. The recalled products
include foodstuffs produced as far back as 2008.
¡°While any food safety recall is a major concern to me, this one is
especially alarming as some of the products included were produced almost
two years ago. This is a glaring indication that the current inspection
system for meat and poultry is inherently flawed and not sufficient
to protect the public health.
¡°Contaminated meat products continue to enter our food supply at a disturbing
rate. And as recalls like this attest, it is time for the meat and poultry
inspection system at USDA to be subject to a comprehensive review by
an external, independent science board to ensure that the current system
is adequately protecting the public health. Such a board would support
and advise USDA, ensure that the inspection process is rigorous and
scientifically robust, and recommend changes to any practices that are
insufficiently protecting our food supply.¡±
USA - More rhetoric and little action on food safety
20 Jan 2010
While Congress is in the process of developing and passing legislation
that will modernize the Food and Drug Administration¡¯s ability to regulate
and inspect the segments of the food industry it has authority over,
including seafood and produce, meat and poultry trade association officials
are concerned about aspects of the bill that may impact their industry,
which is regulated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
¡°If these precedents pass in the F.D.A. bill, they would surely be added
to any U.S.D.A. food-safety legislation down the road,¡± said Joel Brandenberger,
spokesman for the National Turkey Federation. ¡°They would include mandatory
recall of poultry and meat products, instead of the current voluntary
system, which works very well.
¡°Then there are civil penalties. We have inspectors in our plants continuously,
so why would these penalties be needed? Civil penalties would not improve
food safety, but merely be a moneymaking scheme for the government.¡±
A major food safety focus for the American Meat Institute is funding
solutions-based research to make food products safer, including raw
meat and poultry products as well as ready-to-eat products.
¡°The Institute has worked very hard to bring new food-safety technologies
on-line to further enhance the safety of meat products, but the approval
process is slow,¡± said Patrick Boyle, president of the A.M.I. ¡°One often
cited example is the use of irradiation on meat-carcass surfaces. The
A.M.I. petitioned U.S.D.A. five years ago to approve the use of such
irradiation to reduce or eliminate pathogens on carcasses, but so far
there has been no approval.
¡°Although the delays in the decision making process have been frustrating,
A.M.I. will remain vigilant in its effort to get this food-safety tool
approved and implemented.¡±
For poultry processors, the updated Salmonella and Campylobacter performance
standards are a concern (see related story in this issue of Sosland
Publishing¡¯s Food Safety Monitor).
¡°In the poultry industry, this year U.S.D.A. will reset the Salmonella
standard,¡± said Richard Lobb, the National Chicken Council¡¯s spokesman,
and he suspects the amount of Salmonella tolerated on raw meat will
be lowered. He also believes the F.S.I.S. will set up a pathogen program
for Campylobacter, ¡°which is even more pervasive than Salmonella,¡± Mr.
Lobb pointed out. ¡°The agency may require plants to achieve reductions
in Campylobacter. In any case, both areas will be affected by U.S.D.A.
rulemaking this year.¡±
National Meat Association officials said it is critical that an undersecretary
for food safety finally be named. The N.M.A.¡¯s spokesman, Jeremy Russell,
said the appointment is ¡°a must¡± if there is going to be more movement
and efforts made for greater food safety by industry, government and
¡°In order to advance food safety and get all of the parties involved,
there needs to be someone with political power leading the charge and
getting everyone to work together,¡± he said. ¡°That person is the undersecretary
for food safety. The administration is likely coming to a decision on
the undersecretary this year.¡±
The author is the Washington correspondent for Meat & Poultry magazine,
a sister publication to Sosland Publishing¡¯s Food Safety Monitor. This
story originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Meat & Poultry.
Study Links GM
Corn to Organ Damage
by Zach Mallove | Jan 20, 2010
A recent study analyzing the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods
on mammalian health found that corn produced by the multinational corporation
Monsanto is linked to organ damage in rats.
The study, which was published in the December 2009 issue of International
Journal of Biological Sciences, was conducted over a 90-day period,
in which select groups of rats were fed the three main commercialized
GM corn - Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing
NK 603. Based on the observed effects, researchers concluded that the
three types of GM corn tested - all approved for human consumption in
the United States - produced significant amounts of organ toxicity in
rats, particularly in the kidney and liver functions. In sum, the study
"Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function,
the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with
each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and
blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex
differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically
significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between
male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant
as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data
strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal
toxicity.[...] These substances have never before been an integral part
of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences
for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently
International food activists and consumers have expressed deep concern,
but few have shown surprise. According to the Huffington Post, Monsanto
gathered its own crude statistical data on the GM corn in question after
conducting a 90-day study, despite the known fact that chronic problems
can rarely be found after 90 days. Based on this 90-day study, the corn
was declared safe for consumption.
The study comes after a long string of negative publicity for Mansanto,
which has a litany of complaints alleged against it such as intimidating
farmers, using hostile tactics to squeeze out competition, false advertising,
committing widespread international pollution, and producing Agent Orange.
Monsanto is also the leading seller of GM seeds - it sells about 90%
of the world's supply. Not surprisingly, critics have accused Monsanto
of aggressively promoting the use of genetically modified seeds in the
United States and abroad.
While some groups like Change.org see the study as a rallying cry against
Monsanto and GM crops, a few experts have questioned the clarity of
the study's results. Dr. Marion Nestle, a leading nutritionist, wrote
on her blog, "I found the paper extremely difficult to read, in
part because it is written in exceptionally dense and opaque language,
and in part because it presents the data in especially complicated tables
Monsanto, too, has directly responded to the study, stating in a press
release that the research is "based on faulty analytical methods
and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for
Authors of the study responded to Monsanto's statement on the blog Food
Freedom. "Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto
systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are
different in males and females eating GMOs (genetically modified organisms),
or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic
for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work,
the only careful analysis of Monsanto crude statistical data."
Correction: The study was published in the Journal of Biological Sciences.
It was originally reported to have been published in the Journal of
DeLauro Calls for Panel to Review FSIS
by Helena Bottemiller | Jan 20, 2010
After learning of the recent recall of 390 tons of beef for E. coli
contamination, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a longtime proponent
of stronger food safety laws, called for the creation of an independent
science board to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's)
efforts to protect public health.
"While any food safety recall is a major concern to me, this one
is especially alarming as some of the products included were produced
almost two years ago," said DeLauro in a statement emailed to reporters.
"This is a glaring indication that the current inspection system
for meat and poultry is inherently flawed and not sufficient to protect
the public health."
"Contaminated meat products continue to enter our food supply at
a disturbing rate," added DeLauro, who called for a comprehensive
review of the meat and poultry system at USDA by an external, independent
DeLauro stated that the independent board would, "support and advise
USDA, ensure that the inspection process is rigorous and scientifically
robust, and recommend changes to any practices that are insufficiently
protecting our food supply."
This week's recall, which consisted of approximately 864,000 pounds
of various ground beef products, was announced by the USDA's Food Safety
and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The recall was the second major Class I meat recall in a row to be announced
on a holiday-- FSIS announced the last E. coli beef recall on Christmas
Unclear Whether New FDA Post Will Have Impact
by Helena Bottemiller | Jan 21, 2010
Many food safety experts and consumer advocates were quick to praise
food safety veteran and former Monsanto executive Michael Taylor's appointment
to deputy commissioner of foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) last week, but it is unclear whether the move will have a significant
impact on the embattled agency's effort to regulate 80 percent of the
"We're very happy over at S.T.O.P. to see Michael R. Taylor, a
veteran food expert, named as deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA,"
said Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.) on the organization's blog
this week. "The newly created position is the first to oversee
all the agency's many food and nutrition programs."
The new post undoubtedly raises the profile of food issues within the
FDA, an agency that has been long criticized for too heavily focusing
on regulating drugs and medical devices--but it is hard to predict whether
the position will provide meaningful change for the fractured food safety
system at FDA.
Dr. David Acheson, who used to hold the position most similar to Taylor's
new gig--associate commissioner of foods, from January 2008 to July
2009--expressed doubt that the new post would have an immediate impact
at the agency.
"Really it correlates to about the position I had, but with line
authority over the centers," said Acheson, who explained that while
the new authority is necessary, it wont necessarily be a game-changer.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is a need," said Acheson,
who called the increased authority "a sound decision."
"Foods need to be raised to a higher profile," he added.
When asked whether the new authority was likely to lead to immediate
improvements in FDA's regulation of the food supply, Acheson expressed
doubt, and pointed out that Taylor has essentially been running the
food safety show at FDA since becoming senior adviser to FDA commissioner
Margaret Hamburg last summer.
"I think he's been doing this job since July," added Acheson.
"We haven't seen a big shift in six months."
CBS to air story on antibiotic use in livestock and poultry
By Rita Jane Gabbett on 1/21/2010
The CBS Evening News plans next week to air a story on antibiotic use
in livestock and poultry production, according to Tribune Co.'s The
Morning Call Web site.
For the story, CBS anchor Katie Couric visited Koch's Turkey Farm in
Tamaqua, Pa., which raises its turkeys free-range and antibiotic-free.
Originally scheduled to air this week, the segment has been rescheduled
for sometime next week due to this week's Haiti crisis coverage, CBS
producer Ashley Velie was quoted as saying.
The segment also is expected to include footage on Applegate Farms,
a New Jersey producer of antibiotic-free, ready-to-eat foods including
deli meats, bacon and hot dogs.
CBS has been to Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Denmark to
research this story and is expected to focus on antibiotic use in pork
and poultry production, according to industry groups that have been
contacted by CBS.
Senators say Russian meat claims unfounded
By Drovers news source | Thursday, January 21, 2010
Russia is making bogus food safety claims to curtail or eliminate American
pork, poultry and beef imports, say two U.S. Senators.
The allegation is made by the two top agricultural leaders in the U.S.
Senate in a letter to President Obama, reports Food Safety News.
Democrat Blanche Lincoln and Republican Saxby Chambliss, the chair and
ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged the President
to "fully engage all resources to address these agricultural trade
issues, especially with respect to U.S. exports of pork, poultry and
beef," according to the Pigsite.com.
The letter states: "While the actions against our exports have
taken different forms, they all erect non-scientific barriers to trade.
First, if left unchallenged, they would have the effect of keeping U.S.
products almost entirely out of Russian markets.
"Second, while the Russian government's varied justifications centered
on sanitary measures, analyses or guidelines of international agencies
such as the World Organization for Animal Health or the Codex Alimentarius
do not support Russia's conclusions. As such, attempts to manage the
flow of imports raises questions regarding Russia's willingness and
readiness to become a member of the World Trade Organization."
"With respect to pork, a variety of Russian ministries have raised
a series of questionable or undocumented objections about processing
or residue issues for products originating from specific U.S. plants,
leading to those facilities being de-listed for eligibility to export
to Russia. With the de-listing of nearly 30 pork processing plants,
98 percent of pork processed in the United States is ineligible for
"With respect to poultry, as of January 1, 2010, the government
of Russia has determined that it will no longer accept for import poultry
that was processed with the use of chlorine rinses, even though numerous
studies and most recognized scientific bodies worldwide have found this
practice to be entirely safe.
Files First E. coli Lawsuit Against National Steak and Poultry
Posted : Thu, 21 Jan 2010 21:30:50 GMT
Author : Marler Clark
SALT LAKE CITY - (Business Wire) The first E. coli lawsuit against National
Steak and Poultry (NSP), an Oklahoma meat manufacturing facility, was
filed today in the Third Judicial District Court in Salt Lake City.
The civil suit was filed by Marler Clark and by Utah attorneys Jared
Faerber and Dustin Lance on behalf of a child sickened in the E. coli
O157:H7 outbreak linked to NSP beef products. The lawsuit also names
as yet unidentified ¡°John Doe¡± companies that may have been involved
in distributing the tainted meat products.
The recall linked to National Steak and Poultry was announced on Christmas
Eve 2009. It included 248,000 pounds of beef products potentially contaminated
with E. coli O157:H7, a toxic pathogen. NSP announced the recall after
the USDA and CDC became aware of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses
linked to the product in six states. Ultimately, the E. coli O157:H7
outbreak was expanded to twenty-one people in 16 states. The victims
live in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas,
Michigan, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Utah, and Washington State. According to the CDC, most of the people
sickened in the outbreak fell ill between mid October and late November;
nine were hospitalized; and one person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome
(HUS), a life-threatening complication, as a result of their E. coli
infection. Most of the meat was distributed to restaurants.
According to the lawsuit, 14-year-old Utah resident ¡°CD¡± was infected
with E. coli O157:H7 in October 2009. Within days of consuming contaminated
meat, he began to experience severe E. coli symptoms including agonizing
abdominal cramps and diarrhea that soon turned bloody. When his symptoms
worsened, his parents rushed him to the ER at Columbia Lakeview Hospital
in Bountiful, Utah where he was diagnosed with gastrointestinal bleeding;
his parents were ultimately directed to take him to Primary Children¡¯s
Medical Center due to his deteriorating condition. CD remained hospitalized
at Primary Children¡¯s Medical Center in Ogden, Utah from November 2
through 4, 2009. He was diagnosed with infectious colitis, and a stool
specimen that he submitted during his hospitalization soon tested positive
for E. coli O157:H7. CD¡¯s parents learned from officials from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention that the strain of E. coli O157:H7
that had infected their son matched the outbreak strain linked to the
defendant National Steak Processor¡¯s beef products.
The lawsuit was filed by Seattle foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark,
and by Utah counsel, Dustin Lance, of The Lance Firm, P.C., and Jared
Faerber of The Faerber Law Firm, P.C. Mr. Lance and Mr. Faerber are
experienced Utah trial lawyers, and have both previously represented
Utah residents sickened by contaminated food products. Moreover, both
Utah counsel have worked with Mr. Marler and his firm on past foodborne
illness cases within the State of Utah.
ABOUT MARLER CLARK: Bill Marler is an accomplished food safety advocate
and attorney at Marler Clark. He began litigating foodborne illness
cases in 1993, when he successfully represented Brianne Kiner, the most
seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.
Over the years Marler Clark has become the leader in representing victims
of foodborne illness and has gone against companies that include Odwalla,
Chili¡¯s ConAgra, Dole, KFC, Sizzler, Golden Corral, and Wendy¡¯s. Under
the auspices of the non-profit Outbreak, Inc, Mr. Marler spends much
of his time speaking about food safety and has testified before Congress
as well as State Legislatures. He is a frequent author of articles related
to foodborne illness in food safety journals and magazines as well as
on Food Safety News and his personal blog, www.marlerblog.com. For further
information contact Mary Siceloff at 206-719-4705, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit www.marlerclark.com.
Outbreak Hits Block in WI Town
by Dan Flynn | Jan 20, 2010
Parents of four Wisconsin children who've been fighting bacterial diseases
since December want somebody to solve what some there are calling the
Grand Avenue mystery.
The four children live side-by-side and kitty corner from one another
in a one-block area of Grand Avenue in the Village of Belgium located
about 40 miles north of Milwaukee. The tiny town of about 2,000 is set
back about two miles from Lake Michigan.
"If they are all related, you'd think somebody would want to find
that out, wouldn't you?" asked Emily Golden, mother of Chris Golden,
who is recovering at home from infections of both cryptosporidium and
clostridium difficile (C. diff). He began showing symptoms on Jan. 8.
Chris, however, did not test positive for E. coli. Other other children
on the block did; since Dec. 12, the Ozaukee County Health Department
has confirmed that two children tested positive for E. coli, and says
the third is a "probable" case.
Four-year-old Tyson Becker was infected with E. coli and developed Hemolytic
Uremic Syndrome (HUS). He was at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in
Milwaukee from Dec. 17 to Jan. 5. While hospitalized, his kidneys shut
down and he required three surgeries, two blood transfusions, and kidney
"Once you've gone through it, you don't want to see any other kid
get it," says Cara Becker, Tyson's mom.
The two other E. coli victims came down with their infections one month
apart from one another. One of those two was hospitalized.
With the block's stricken children ranging from age 2 to 8, they have
little contact with one another, and the outdoors are frozen and covered
in Wisconsin's famous ice and snow. The town has tested its water and
says the results were all clean.
The block's illnesses are being investigated by the Ozaukee County Health
Department, which is getting help from the state. But having an assortment
of bacterial infections hit four children in one block is leaving parents
feeling very uneasy.
"We've been told it may be something in the environment,"
says Cara Becker. But she, like others in the neighborhood, would like
more effort put forward to solve the mystery.
While parents in the neighborhood worry about their kids getting sick,
one expert on these bacterial illnesses says the danger may have passed.
"The silver lining appears to be that there's not a persisting
source of infection, otherwise additional people would continue to fall
ill, says Seattle attorney Drew Falkenstein. "But that's cold comfort
to the mother of a young child hospitalized with HUS."
Falkenstein, who has been involved in E. coli O157:H7 litigation on
behalf of victims in Wisconsin, says the state's surveillance, microbiological,
and sanitation personnel have the talent to solve the mystery, if it
can be done.
"Public health looks to be taking all the right steps in trying
to find a source for these illnesses. That will obviously be important,
if only for peace of mind, for the folks who live in that area of town,"
Bill Marler, who works with Falkenstein, says the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) should also be involved.
"There are 73,000 E. coli O157:H7 cases yearly, with thousands
hospitalized. Nearly 100, mostly children, die. In many cases a source
is not determined," Marler, says. "Here, however, with these
kids being sick in the same area in same time frame, a source should
be found. Hopefully PulseNet, the CDC's genetic database of E. coli
bacteria, is involved."
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