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Illness Numbers Down
by Dan Flynn | Apr 16, 2010
Since the bad old days
of the late 1990s, federal food safety officials say the incidence of
the best-known foodborne illnesses have been cut back. Shigella is down
55 percent, E. coli O157 is down 41 percent, Campylobacter is down 30
percent, and Salmonella is off by 10 percent.
Those were among the positive findings of the "Preliminary Foodnet
Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly
Through Food--10 States, 2009" as published in the Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
MMWR is published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) in Atlanta and FoodNet is a data-sharing project involving ten
states and the federal government.
The most dramatic reductions are found when 2009 was compared with the
1996-1998 period. Dr. Chris Braden, who heads up CDC's foodborne disease
unit, said incident rates are mostly stable in more recent years. Braden's
comments came in a telephone conference with reporters.
"We can say that since FoodNet began surveillance in 1996, Campylobacter,
Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC)
O157, Shigella, and Yersinia, six of the pathogens we track, have all
declined," he said.
Federal food safety officials from the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and CDC say more needs
to be done to protect the public from foodborne pathogens.
Foodborne illness costs Americans $152 billion a year, according to
a recent study by Georgetown University and the Pew Chartable Trusts.
CDC blames foodborne illness for 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths
annually in the U.S.
Vibrio infections, associated with eating raw or undercooked shellfish,
increased by 85 percent from the late 1990s period used as a baseline.
Most of those illnesses are from bad oysters and while the number is
a small percentage of total foodborne illness, serious illnesses and
even death can result.
The ten states that are involved in FoodNet have a population of about
46 million people or about 15 percent of the total U.S. population.
The full report is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr. For
more information about FoodNet, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/FoodNet/.
Over Antibiotic Use Continues
by Helena Bottemiller | Apr 19, 2010
Discussion on the link between
antibiotic resistance in humans and the routine, subtherapeutic use
of antibiotics in food animal production rolls on. For the past several
weeks, congressional staff working on food, agriculture, and health
issues have heard from both both sides of the debate with a series of
briefings on the issue.
The uptick in discussion on Capitol Hill comes in the wake of a February
CBS Evening News broadcast criticizing the widespread use of antibiotics
in animal agriculture. The meat industry has been actively pushing back
against the criticism, partly fueled by concern it could build momentum
for legislation that would ban the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics
in animal feed in an effort to curb growing antibiotic resistance in
Consumer and public health groups, however, have been trying to capitalize
on growing consumer awareness of antibiotic use to build just that momentum.
"We're excited this message is getting out," Robert Guidos,
vice president of public policy and government relations for the Infectious
Diseases Society of America (IDSA) told Food Safety News.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-N), the only microbiologist serving
in Congress, authored the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment
Act, commonly known as PAMTA, to address what she believes is a growing
threat to public health.
The bill would require that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
deny any new animal antibiotic drugs unless the federal government is
certain the drugs will not contribute to antimicrobial resistance. The
bill would also ban the routine, or nontherapeutic, use of antibiotics
in food-producing animals.
"I cant stress enough the urgency of preventing the current stock
of antibiotics from becoming obsolete," Slaughter told an audience
of Hill staffers last Wednesday in a briefing sponsored by scientific
and public health groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS), the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the American Public Health Association
"Resistant bacterial infections increase health care costs by $4
to 5 billion each year, a staggering amount. Seven classes of antibiotics
certified by the Food and Drug Administration are considered to critical
to humans," said Slaughter, adding that every day 38 people needlessly
lose their lives to resistant infections.
"Make no mistake, the bill would not infringe in any way, on the
use of the drugs to treat a sick animal," added Slaughter. "It
simply prohibits their non therapeutic use unless the drug companies
can prove the drugs do not promote antimicrobial resistance."
Further fueling the discussion, an Op-Ed titled "Cows on Drugs"
by former FDA commissioner Donald Kennedy appeared in the New York Times
Saturday. Kennedy called on Congress to pass PAMTA, which he believes
is 30 years overdue."We don't have the luxury of waiting any longer,"
The meat and feed industry, as well as the American Veterinary Medical
Association (AVMA), remain vehemently opposed to such a ban, and are
actively engaging growing criticism. In a recent letter to CBS, several
industry groups responded to the critical coverage, which they called
"reckless and one-sided."
"In fact, antibiotics are given to livestock strategically, when
animals are sick, susceptible or exposed to illness. Modern livestock
production facilities provide animals with an environment designed to
keep them safe, healthy and comfortable," read the letter, signed
by over a dozen groups, including the American Meat Institute, the National
Pork Producers Council, and the Association of Veterinarians in Turkey
"Also, there's no proof that antibiotic use on farms significantly
increases resistant bacteria in humans. Since antibiotics have been
used in livestock for half a century, if there was going to be an epidemic
of resistance related to antibiotic use in agriculture, it would have
occurred by now. The fact that it has not means that antibiotic use
in animals is not a major risk to human health," said the letter.
In its response, CBS said it respectfully disagreed and stood by the
coverage. "Our reporting found decades of research in this country
and abroad which link antibiotic resistance in humans to the use of
antibiotics in food animal production."
"The challenging thing about this issue of antibiotic resistant
organisms in agriculture, and being spread by food, is that it is no
longer a question of science," said Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug,
a book about the drug resistant staphylococcus aureus epidemic, who
presented on the Hill last week.
"The scientific questions--does this happen, is agricultural antibiotic
use causing it to happen, does it pose a threat to human health--have
all been answered, and in each case the answer is Yes," said McKenna.
"The questions that have to be answered now are questions of politics,
economics and competing commercial interests, and those are much, much
regulators dropping the ball on biocrops.
By Carey Gillam, ReutersApril 16, 2010
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Robert Kremer, a U.S. government microbiologist who
studies Midwestern farm soil, has spent two decades analyzing the rich
dirt that yields billions of bushels of food each year and helps the
United States retain its title as breadbasket of the world.
Kremer's lab is housed at the University of Missouri and is literally
in the shadow of Monsanto Auditorium, named after the $11.8 billion-a-year
agricultural giant Monsanto Co. Based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the
company has accumulated vast wealth and power creating chemicals and
genetically altered seeds for farmers worldwide.
But recent findings by Kremer and other agricultural scientists are
raising fresh concerns about Monsanto's products and the Washington
agencies that oversee them. The same seeds and chemicals spread across
millions of acres of U.S. farmland could be creating unforeseen problems
in the plants and soil, this body of research shows.
Kremer, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural
Research Service (ARS), is among a group of scientists who are turning
up potential problems with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's
Roundup and the most widely used weed-killer in the world.
"This could be something quite big. We might be setting up a huge
problem," said Kremer, who expressed alarm that regulators were
not paying enough attention to the potential risks from biotechnology
on the farm, including his own research.
Concerns range from worries about how nontraditional genetic traits
in crops could affect human and animal health to the spread of herbicide-resistant
Biotech crop supporters say there is a wealth of evidence that the crops
on the market are safe, but critics argue that after only 14 years of
commercialized GMOs, it is still unclear whether or not the technology
has long-term adverse effects.
But whatever the point of view on the crops themselves, there are many
people on both sides of the debate who say that the current U.S. regulatory
apparatus is ill-equipped to adequately address the concerns. Indeed,
many experts say the U.S. government does more to promote global acceptance
of biotech crops than to protect the public from possible harmful consequences.
"We don't have a robust enough regulatory system to be able to
give us a definitive answer about whether these crops are safe or not.
We simply aren't doing the kinds of tests we need to do to have confidence
in the safety of these crops," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a scientist
who served on a FDA biotech advisory subcommittee from 2002 to 2005.
"The U.S. response (to questions about biotech crop safety) has
been an extremely patronizing one. They say 'We know best, trust us,'"
added Gurian-Sherman, now a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned
Scientists, a nonprofit environmental group.
CALL FOR CHANGE
The World Health Organization has not taken a stand on biotech crops
generally, simply stating "individual GM foods and their safety
should be assessed on a case-by-case basis."
And while many scientists around the world cite research they say shows
health and environmental risks tied to GMOs, many other scientists say
research proves the crops are no different than conventional types.
With a growing world population and a need to increase food production
in poor nations, confidence in the regulatory system in the leading
biotech crop country is considered critical.
"One of the things that we think is important to do is to have
regular reviews and updates of our strategies for regulating products
of biotechnology," said Roger Beachy, a biotech crop supporter
who was appointed last year as director of the National Institute of
Food and Agriculture.
"We want to look carefully to see that they are logical and science-based
but still maintain the confidence of the consumer to ensure that the
projects that are developed and released have the highest level of oversight,"
So far, that confidence has been lacking. Courts have cited regulators
for failing to do their jobs properly and advisers and auditors have
sought sweeping changes.
Even Wall Street has taken note. In January, shares in Monsanto fell
more than 3 percent amid a rush of hedging activity during a morning
trading session after a report by European scientists in the International
Journal of Biological Sciences found signs of toxicity in the livers
and kidneys of rats fed the company's biotech corn.
Monsanto has said the European study had "unsubstantiated conclusions,"
and says it is confident its products are well tested and safe.
Indeed, farmers around the world seem to be embracing biotech crops
that have been altered to resist bugs and tolerate weed-killing treatments
while yielding more. According to an industry report issued in February,
14 million farmers in 25 countries planted biotech crops on 330 million
acres in 2009, with the United States alone accounting for 158 million
A common complaint is that the U.S. government conducts no independent
testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little
to track their consequences after.
The developers of these crop technologies, including Monsanto and its
chief rival DuPont, tightly curtail independent scientists from conducting
their own studies. Because the companies patent their genetic alterations,
outsiders are barred from testing the biotech seeds without company
Unlike several other countries, including France, Japan and Germany,
the United States has never passed a law for regulating genetically
modified crop technologies. Rather, the government has tried to incorporate
regulation into laws already in existence before biotech crops were
The result is a system that treats a genetically modified fish as a
drug subject to Federal Drug Administration oversight, and a herbicide-tolerant
corn seed as a potential "pest" that needs to be regulated
by USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) before its
sale to farmers.
The process is also costly and time-consuming for biotech crop developers,
which might need to go through three different regulators before commercializing
a new product.
Nina Fedoroff, a special adviser on science and technology to the U.S.
State Department, which promotes GMO adoption overseas, said even though
she is confident that biotech crops are ultimately safe and highly beneficial
for agriculture and food production, an improved regulatory framework
could help boost confidence in the products.
"We preach to the world about science-based regulations but really
our regulations on crop biotechnology are not yet science-based,"
said Fedoroff in an interview. "They are way, way out of date.
In many countries scientists are much better represented at the government
ranks than they are here."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of top U.S. corn
producing state Iowa, also said he recognizes change is needed. The
USDA is in fact developing new rules for regulating genetically modified
crops but the process has dragged out now for more than six years amid
heavy lobbying from corporate interests and consumer and environmental
"There is no question that our rules and regulations have to be
modernized," Vilsack told Reuters. "The more information you
find out, the more you have to look at your regulations to make sure
they are doing what they have to do. There are some issues we are still
Fourteen years after commercialization of the world's first biotech
crop, the trio of U.S. regulatory agencies charged with overseeing biotech
crops . USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration . are under attack on several fronts.
The USDA is most directly in the line of fire after a string of federal
court decisions found its officials acted illegally or carelessly in
approving some biotech crops.
In one recent case, a federal court banned the sale of a herbicide-tolerant
alfalfa engineered by Monsanto until the government more thoroughly
evaluates its safety.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of
California ruled that the USDA violated federal law in allowing unrestricted
commercial planting of "Roundup Ready" alfalfa . a key livestock
fodder . without a solid review.
Breyer ordered the USDA to prepare an environmental impact statement
that explores potential negative consequences that critics say could
include contamination of non-GMO alfalfa fields. The spread of herbicide-tolerant
weeds is also a concern and is a mounting problem that has been reported
across the United States in many key farming areas.
Monsanto has appealed the ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear
the case on April 27, marking the first time the high court has taken
up biotech crop concerns.
Meanwhile, the USDA recently completed its Environmental Impact Statement
and took public comments on the report through early March. The department
has yet to issue a final report.
In a similar case, a federal court found that sugarbeets altered to
be "Roundup Ready" were approved without adequate USDA evaluation.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White said the government's decision
to deregulate Roundup Ready sugar beets "may significantly affect
the environment" and he encouraged growers to "take all efforts,
going forward, to use conventional seed."
Judge White declined to immediately ban all GMO sugarbeet plantings,
but said he would consider a permanent injunction at a hearing on July
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, which
filed the sugarbeet lawsuit, said the court actions should be a "wakeup
call" for the U.S. government.
"They will not be allowed to ignore the biological pollution and
economic impacts of gene-altered crops. The courts have made it clear
that USDA's job is to protect America's farmers and consumers, not the
interests of Monsanto," he said.
The USDA, EPA and FDA say they work hard to ensure that crops produced
through genetic engineering (GE) for commercial use are properly tested
and studied to make sure they pose no significant risk to consumers
or the environment.
But a November 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office,
the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, cited several problems.
Among the shortcomings mentioned in the report is a lack of a coordinated
program to determine whether the "spread of genetic traits is causing
undesirable effects on the environment, non-GE segments of agriculture,
or food safety."
The GAO took the FDA to task for not requiring companies like Monsanto
and other GMO developers to notify the agency before selling new products,
relying on only voluntary notice. It recommended the FDA publicize the
results of food safety assessments of genetically engineered crops and
advised the three agencies to develop a risk-based strategy to monitor
use of GE crops.
But more than a year later, most of the recommendations remain unimplemented,
according to Lisa Shames, director of the natural resources and environment
arm of the GAO.
"We can only influence agencies to take action. We can't compel
them to," she said.
OVERHAUL EYED AMID PROTESTS
Since 1987, the USDA has overseen genetically modified organisms through
the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. APHIS's Biotechnology
Regulatory Services (BRS) regulates GE organisms based on "plant
Monsanto and other biocrop developers must petition APHIS to grant their
genetically altered organisms "nonregulated status" . that
is, permission to grow these plants without official oversight. To win
approval, the companies must demonstrate that their tests show the new
varieties do not pose a risk to plant health.
"APHIS grants nonregulated status only when it determines that
the new genetically engineered variety is unlikely to pose a plant pest
risk," said USDA spokesman Michael Pina, who labeled the current
regulatory system "strong."
USDA has said it wants to make changes that ensure safety while making
the process more transparent to the public, and more efficient and easier
for the companies developing the technologies to navigate.
Still, the USDA has been formally debating regulatory changes for more
than six years and issued proposed new rules in fall 2008, allowing
public comment through last summer, as it must under the law.
The proposed overhaul drew more than 15,000 comments, many of them expressing
fears that the regulatory changes as laid out would not address key
In one public comment, physician Amy Dean, a board member for the research
and education group American Academy of Environmental Medicine which
is seeking a moratorium on GM food, said the proposed changes would
"significantly weaken or eliminate oversight of GM crops."
And Robert Peterson, a Montana State University scientist and leader
of the university's "biological risk assessment" program,
told regulators that while he agreed with some of the proposed regulatory
changes, he thought the agency's risk assessment protocols were "fundamentally
"Recent research reveals that the approach advocated by APHIS is
not scientifically sound and can lead to bad decisions," Peterson
At the FDA, genetically engineered organisms are treated much the same
as foods from all other plant varieties.
GE developers are not required to consult with FDA on safety issues,
and the agency sees no need now for risk-based monitoring efforts for
GE crops because there are no current safety concerns, FDA spokeswoman
Rita Chappelle said.
The agency stressed that the burden for ensuring safety lies with the
companies. "Manufacturers have an obligation to ensure that their
products continue to be safe each and every day," Chappelle said.
At the EPA, officials also say the burden of proof is with the corporate
developers of the technology. And they say they have at least 20 scientists
conducting comprehensive analyses for the products that come before
the agency, such as BT corn and BT cotton, which are altered to protect
the plants against pests. The agency also routinely seeks outside advice
from experts who sit on its scientific advisory panels.
Over the last several months, the EPA has also started allowing more
public input into its review of new products.
"Transparency and open government is a major priority of the Obama
administration. We are adding a significant amount of public participation,"
said Keith Matthews, acting director of the U.S. Biopesticides and Pollution
Further to its mission of environmental protection, EPA officials said
the agency reviews products every 15 years for adverse effects. EPA
senior policy advisor Bill Jordan said glyphosate, the popular weed-killing
chemical, could come under review soon.
"We have an ongoing responsibility to make sure products that are
in the marketplace continue to meet the safety standards of the pesticide
law," he said. "We have a program called registration review.
Sometime soon we'll be getting to glyphosate. I would expect that we
would look at emerging research on its environmental effects and see
whether that leads us to change the terms and conditions of registration
or limit its use in some way."
Concerns about genetically altered crops and the lack of broad testing
hit a boiling point last year. In February 2009, 26 leading academic
entomologists . scientists specializing in insects . issued a public
statement to the Environmental Protection Agency complaining that they
were restricted from doing independent research by technology agreements
Monsanto and other companies attach to every bag of biotech seed they
sell. The agreements disallow any research that is not first approved
by the companies.
"No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many
critical questions regarding the technology," the scientists said
in their statement.
University of Minnesota entomologist Ken Ostlie, who co-authored the
statement, said some of the concerns involve corn engineered to resist
corn rootworm pests. Biotech corn crops in Minnesota, Iowa, and parts
of Wisconsin and South Dakota harvested last fall showed damage and
disease, and some fear the biotech corn could sicken livestock.
"We don't know if something is going on with the plant and the
technology or with the insect. We just know things didn't work the way
they were supposed to," said Ostlie. "It would be nice to
have independently verifiable information going into EPA's decision-making
beyond just what the company provides."
Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University, said the technology
engineered into the plants has many benefits, but more research is needed
"We are all fans of this technology. The problem is we are not
getting access to ask the questions that need to be asked that maybe
the companies don't want to ask," Krupke said.
A backlash against biotech crops has swept many countries. India became
one of the latest hot spots in February when biotech opponents created
such an uprising that the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, blocked
the release of a genetically modified eggplant made by Monsanto.
India already allows planting of altered cotton, but Ramesh said there
was not enough public trust to support the introduction of a GM food
crop until more research was done.
Among the critics of the engineered eggplant was Tiruvadi Jagadisan,
a former managing director of Monsanto's India operations.
In an interview with Reuters, Jagadisan, who worked with Monsanto for
18 years, said he believed there were "very many legitimate concerns
about the safety of GM food crops for humans, animals and the environment."
He said Monsanto did not give "accurate information to the public"
about its eggplant.
"No extensive tests have been done to assess the effect of consuming
GM crops on future generations," Jagadisan said, an assertion common
among critics, but one Monsanto has repeatedly denied.
Monsanto called Jagadisan's assertions "baseless" and said
India's regulatory regime requires "extensive and rigid crop safety
assessments, following strict scientific protocols."
The state department's Fedoroff, a supporter of Monsanto's technology,
called the incident "one little setback" to gaining worldwide
acceptance of biotech crops.
She said with rising food prices and population growth, biotech crop
technology will become increasingly important, and criticisms of Monsanto
and its technology were unfair.
"They've certainly made mistakes but they've done a whole lot more
good than harm. They are investing more in crop improvements than our
government is," she said.
Back in his USDA laboratory, Kremer's assigned government work is focused
on general soil quality. As a side project in support of that research,
he has spent the last several years studying soil and plant growth tests
that appear to show ravaged root systems in biotech "Roundup Ready"
The crops have been subjected to glyphosate applications and on the
surface appear to be impervious to the weed-killing treatments as the
genetic alteration allows. But the roots seem to tell a different story.
"This is supposed to be a wonderful tool for the farmer ... but
in many situations it may actually be a detriment," Kremer said.
"We have glyphosate released into the soil which appears to be
affecting root growth and root-associated microbes. We need to understand
what is the long-term trend here," he said.
The development of crops engineered to tolerate glyphosate spurred a
surge in use of the chemical . an extra 383 million pounds were sold
from 1996 to 2008, according to a report released by The Organic Center
(TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food
Monsanto says the chemical binds tightly to most types of soil, is not
harmful and does not harm the crops.
But some scientists say there are indications of increased root fungal
disease as well as nutrient deficiencies in Roundup Ready crops. They
say manganese deficiency in soybeans in particular appears to be an
issue in key farming areas that include Indiana, Michigan, Kansas and
Outside researchers have also raised concerns over the years that glyphosate
use may be linked to cancer, miscarriages and other health problems
Monsanto says extensive research shows glyphosate is safe for humans
and the environment, and has an entire section on its website devoted
to refuting the reports. Monsanto says extensive investigation of questions
about changes in soil micro-organisms has found no long-term ill effects.
Peering into into his petri dishes, Kremer isn't so sure.
"Science is not being considered in policy setting and deregulation,"
said Kremer. "This research is important. We need to be vigilant."
REUTERS Reut14:57 04-13-10
An Issue of Safety or Freedom.
by Drew Falkenstein
| Apr 19, 2010
One need not look far
to grasp the scope of this country's food safety problems, and the personal
devastation that can happen when somebody is infected by E. coli, Salmonella,
Campylobacter, or any other foodborne pathogen.
Stephanie Smith, who, at the time of her illness, was a 19-year-old
dance instructor from Cold Springs, Minnesota, suffered an E. coli O157:H7-hemolytic
uremic syndrome illness so severe that it left her paralyzed (See Dancer
Paralyzed by E. coli Sues Cargill, Dec. 5, 2009). And Linda Rivera,
who was sickened from contaminated Nestle cookie dough, was just flown
from a Las Vegas Hospital to a long-term rehabilitation center after
almost a year-long hospitalization from her own E. coli O157:H7 infection.
But there is one particular food product that has become as much a political
issue as it is an issue of food safety. It has been the source of fierce
legislative battles throughout the country; an endlessly interesting
topic for bloggers and traditional media alike; and the ultimate source
of a number of major personal injury cases. It is raw milk--an unpasteurized,
back-to-our-roots fluid milk product that, despite its seemingly benign
persona, has raised questions about unwarranted and unconstitutional
government intrusion into private affairs, and how best to spite the
government's regulatory efforts.
The raging debate over raw milk is largely the product of a grassroots
campaign aimed at food decentralization, which has gained a much larger
voice in the wake of a long list of food poisoning outbreaks linked
to mass-produced food products, including Dole baby spinach, Nestle's
cookie dough, and countless ground beef, meat, and other widely distributed
But the debate over raw milk is different than the debate over safe
food generally because the vocal minority that consumes the product,
or at least wants to, elects to either ignore the real risks associated
with the product, or chooses to consume raw milk knowing full well the
risks that it poses. The latter group, in fact, is gaining many more
members nationally in the wake of a string of outbreaks linked to raw
milk. Thus, at least the debate has crystallized, and now largely involves
a vocal group of well-educated consumers who understand the risk, but
choose to take it nonetheless.
Whatever the case, the federal government's stand on raw milk is unequivocal.
The Food and Drug Administration bans the interstate trade of raw milk
entirely; and most states heavily regulate the production and intrastate
sale of raw milk, if they permit it at all. But many raw milk proponents
feel individually, and very personally, wronged by what they see as
governmental meddling in private affairs--some going so far as to call
the ability to purchase and consume raw milk a fundamental constitutional
According to the founding documents of the United States, personal liberties
are self-evident and inalienable rights, not privileges endowed by state
health departments, federal bureaucracies, or personal injury lawyers.
There is no scientific evidence to justify the singling out of raw milk
from among other foods for prohibition or damaging regulation, and there
is no legitimate constitutional or philosophical basis on which Americans
or anyone else should be deprived of the basic human right to determine
what to eat and drink. See http://realmilk.com/documents/ResponsetoMarlerListofStudies.pdf.
Regardless of whether one believes he should be allowed to eat whatever
he wants, there exists no tool to prevent the several states and the
federal government from regulating the production and distribution of
raw milk. States have the authority in the exercise of their general
police powers to enact measures to protect the health, safety, and welfare
of their citizens. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 635, 123 L. Ed.
2d 353, 113 S. Ct. 1710 (1993); see also Sligh v. Kirkwood, 237 U.S.
52, 59-60, 35 S.Ct. 501 (1915) ("The power of the State to . .
. prevent the production within its borders of impure foods, unfit for
use, and such articles as would spread disease and pestilence, is well
established"). This power is bounded only by principles of federalism,
generally, and by the protections afforded all persons within a state's
borders by the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th
The federal government, in contrast, is one of enumerated powers, meaning
that it can act only where it has the constitutional authority to do
so. As James Madison wrote,
[t]he powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government
are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments
are numerous and indefinite.
The Federalist No. 45, pp. 292-293 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961).
Among the powers specifically delegated to the federal government is
the power "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among
the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." U.S. CONST. art.
I, ¡× 8, cl. 3. The "commerce clause" has, of course, become
a particularly potent regulatory enabler that, as a result, has spawned
a notoriously complex body of case law. See generally United States
v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1994) (Kennedy, J., concurring). For present
purposes, however, it suffices to say that the commerce clause has provided
the constitutional authority for a great many landmark legislative
and regulatory measures.
The commerce clause unquestionably gives Congress the authority to prohibit
the interstate distribution of raw milk, by sale or otherwise, even
without resort to the Supreme Court's historically disjointed commerce
clause analysis. The reason is that the interstate distribution of raw
milk is, in and of itself, "commerce . . . among the several States."
As a result, it can be regulated "to its utmost extent." Gibbons
v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196 (1824). Congress has done exactly this in
enacting 21 CFR 1240.61(a), which prohibits the delivery "in interstate
commerce [of] any milk or milk product in final package form for direct
human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized."
But the more intriguing question is how far Congress's regulatory power
actually extends with respect to the manufacture and distribution of
raw milk. Is it broad enough to outlaw the sale of raw milk entirely.
Stated another way, does the fact that raw milk is produced, and frequently
even sold only locally (i.e. not interstate commerce per se) insulate
it from Congress's potentially, if not theoretically, apocalyptic reach.
Out of the difficult analytical framework has emerged a line of precedents
approving Congress's regulatory efforts, even with respect to intrastate
commerce, that has a "substantial economic effect on interstate
commerce." See Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 125 (1942) (emphasis
added). "[E]ven if appellee's activity be local and though it may
not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached
by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate
Thus, under the Court's current commerce clause analysis at least, the
question is ultimately whether local production and distribution of
raw milk "substantially affects" interstate commerce. Notably,
there have been many seemingly local endeavors that did not harmoniously
persist as "merely local" upon Supreme Court scrutiny. See
e.g., Wickard, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) (the production and consumption of
home-grown wheat); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964) (restaurants
utilizing substantial interstate supplies); and Heart of Atlanta Motel,
Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) (inns and hotels catering
to interstate guests).
Without predicting the precise boundaries of Congress's power to regulate
the production and distribution of raw milk, it suffices to say that
it has not come close to exhausting its potential reach by merely enacting
21 CFR 1240.61(a). Again, the shipment of raw milk across state lines
is interstate commerce in and of itself, and the power of Congress over
that particular species of raw milk distribution is bounded only by
an as-yet undefined, and at best highly nebulous, personal freedom to
consume raw milk. The better question is how far Congress's reach actually
extends into the modes and channels of production and distribution;
and the answer is that the power is potentially very broad.
Nevertheless, proponents of raw milk are nothing if not resilient and
devoted to their cause. In the face of wide-ranging regulation of their
prized product, they continue to seek out creative ways to undermine
the opposition, persisting in their mantra that the intrusive efforts
of the state and federal governments are acts of unwarranted, legally
In this vein, and serving as an implicit acquiescence to the constitutional
authority of the states and federal governments to regulate their product,
raw milk proponents continue to try to navigate the unfriendly legal
waters in which they find themselves. The result of some of their steadfast
work are cow-share (or herd-share) agreements, which seek to insulate
purveyors of raw milk from state and federal regulation by allowing
consumers to purchase shares in a specific cow or herd instead of paying
money directly for milk. The logic, of course, is that state and federal
regulation cannot reach this conduct because it does not involve the
specific sale of raw milk.
I have addressed these agreements before, concluding:
Truly, to call a cow share agreement a species of legal maneuvering
may be giving too much credit to an effort that is designed either to
flout the law entirely, or at the very least avoid the often stringent
requirements associated with licensure. In reality, cow shares are poorly
disguised attempts to accomplish something that is, in most states,
patently criminal. As a result, when judging whether such conduct constitutes
the sale or distribution of raw milk, courts are likely to approach
these cases with a healthy dose of realism in determining what the parties'
true intent was, whether the forum be civil or criminal court.
See Cow Share Agreements: Fooling Nobody, Food Safety News, Nov. 9,
Many states have confronted cow and herd-share agreements head-on, and
most have closed the legislative loophole by specifically outlawing
the practice. But not even that has deterred proponents of raw milk;
it has, in fact, forced some into ever-more-dangerous, and highly illegal,
distributive schemes, including placing a "pet food only"
label on raw milk that they know, or have reason to know, will or may
be consumed by human beings. Alaska, Colorado, and North Carolina require
raw milk to be dyed before being marketed as pet food in order to address
this problem specifically.
But, clearly, this type of despicable mislabeling would be illegal in
more than just those three states, regardless of the dye requirement.
In most states, it would violate consumer protection laws; and additionally
would make the job of trial lawyers representing kids who have been
sickened by the product a lot easier, as the "pet food only"
label is more than an implicit admission that the product is not fit
for human consumption and is, as a result, unreasonably dangerous and
defective. Punitive damages, in states where they are available, would
be sought with gusto.
These and other issues in the raw milk debate are not likely to go away
soon; as a result, neither will the outbreaks nor the major personal
injuries that can and do occur by consuming this unpasteurized product.
In the midst of all this, small-scale farmers and dairies, and other
purveyors of raw milk, are well-advised to live with the regulations
in place in their home states. From a legal standpoint, there is simply
no constitutional argument to be made that state and federal regulations
are invalid as a class, and attempts such as the cow-share agreements
and "pet food only" labeling that we have witnessed thus far
only perpetuate the reality that the exchange is one that the law simply
does not permit.
1. At a recent pro-raw milk symposium in Madison, Wisconsin, the keynote
presentation, given by dairyman Mark McAfee, was titled "Raw milk
as medicine Proudly violating FDA drug laws."
2. Cf. Gonzalez v. Raich et al, 545 U.S. 1, 34 (2005) (Scalia, J., concurring)
("[A]ctivities that substantially affect interstate commerce are
not themselves part of interstate commerce, and thus the power to regulate
them cannot come from the Commerce Clause alone. Rather as this Court
has acknowledged since at least United States v. Coombs, 37 U.S. 71,
12 Pet. 72, 9 L. Ed. 1004 (1838), Congress's regulatory authority over
intrastate activities that are not themselves part of interstate commerce
 derives from the Necessary and Proper Clause [set forth at U.S. CONST.
art. I, ¡× 8, cl. 18]).
monocytogenes in a Commercial Chicken Cooking Plant
By Sharon Durham
April 19, 2010
Incoming raw poultry is the primary source of Listeria monocytogenes
contamination in commercial chicken cooking plants, according to a 21-month
study conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and
their collaborators at the University of Georgia.
The study¡¯s results will help these facilities more sharply focus their
sanitation processes to reduce cross-contamination. L. monocytogenes
is a bacterial human pathogen that is sometimes found in fully cooked,
ready-to-eat processed meat and poultry products.
By testing a brand-new commercial cooking facility before and after
processing began, the research team was able to track sources of contamination.
The research team was led by ARS microbiologist Mark Berrang of the
Bacterial Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance Research Unit at
the agency¡¯s Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga.
Because the pathogen is prevalent in the environment and in various
forms, there were several potential sources of contamination, including
employees, incoming fresh air, raw meat and the surrounding environment.
Potential sources of L. monocytogenes were tested by taking samples
of soil and water around and near the facility exterior, and by testing
heavily traveled floor surfaces following personnel shift changes. Samples
were also collected and tested from incoming air from air vent filters
and from monthly swabs of incoming raw meat. The plant was free of L.
monocytogenes when first constructed; floor drains in the facility were
sampled approximately monthly to determine at what point the plant would
become colonized with the bacteria.
Within four months of operation, L. monocytogenes was detected in floor
drains, indicating that the organism had been introduced from some outside
source. No L. monocytogenes was recovered from any floor samples in
the plant entryways, locker room or cafeteria. Likewise, the organism
was not detected on air vent filters during the survey. The only tested
source found to be consistently positive for L. monocytogenes was incoming
raw poultry meat.
Quality assurance in the test plant was exceptional and included an
extensive proactive sampling plan to assure food safety. L. monocytogenes
can become prevalent in food processing environments; sanitation, biosafety
and product sampling protocols are in place in these facilities to prevent
shipping contaminated product.
This research was reported in the Journal of Food Protection. Co-authors
included ARS microbiologist Richard Meinersmann in Athens, University
of Georgia scientist Joseph Frank, and former ARS researcher Scott Ladely.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA). The research supports the USDA priority
of ensuring food safety.
USDA to Award School Food Safety Grant
by Helena Bottemiller | Apr 20, 2010
As part of its initiative
to improve school lunch safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
is accepting grant applications from universities to establish a center
of excellence for school food safety research. The agency will grant
one award of $800,000 for FY 2010 to establish the research center.
The center's mission will be "to provide science-based support
to improve the safety of foods provided through the [Food and Nutrition
Service] nutrition assistance programs, particularly those served in
schools and child care settings," according to USDA.
"The center will be established at a university that has an interdisciplinary
group of faculty available to address food safety issues, including
but not limited to, expertise in food safety, food microbiology, foodservice
management, agricultural production (both livestock and plants), psychology,
sociology, research design, and statistics."
The grant is part of a series of initiatives, announced by USDA in early
February, to improve the safety and quality of food purchased for the
National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition assistance
programs, including new food safety purchasing requirements for its
beef suppliers and a thorough review of the entire program by the National
Academies of Science (NAS).
The USDA's new policy initiatives were announced in the wake of increased
national attention to school lunch safety after a series of USA Today
exposes found major gaps in the current system. A recent New York Times
article also questioned the efficacy and safety of an ammonia processing
technique used in ground beef widely purchased by the school lunch program.
"Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our
Nation's school children," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
when he announced the food safety initiative. "We must do everything
we can to ensure that our kids are being served safe, high quality foods
at school. Today's announcement demonstrates our commitment to constantly
improving the safety and quality of foods purchased by USDA."
The agency is currently accepting applications. The USDA's formal request
for applications, with all the details, is available here.
Vilsack on Meat Residues
by Helena Bottemiller
| Apr 20, 2010
In response to the
recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector
General (OIG) report, which found that the agencies responsible for
monitoring veterinary drug, heavy metal, and pesticide residues are
"not accomplishing" their mission, ABC News anchor Ron Claiborne
sat down with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the findings.
"I think the report was valuable in pointing on some deficiencies
that occurred in 2007 and 2008 and we, in 2010, are going try to make
sure that we do a better job," Vilsack told ABC News in the interview.
"But, can the public be assured that beef with potentially dangerous
substances is not on the market.," Claiborne asked.
"I think that they can because of the focus President Obama has
placed on food safety," said Vilsack, noting the creation of the
President's Food Safety Working Group (FSWG), which he said is "working
hard" to improve the federal food safety system.
In the interview, Claiborne continued to press Vilsack on the issue
of consumer safety. "Are inspectors catching all of the beef that
may contain potentially dangerous substances, now."
In a typical Washingtonian move, Vilsack artfully dodged the question.
"I think they're in the process of improving what they do,"
he said. "You never have perfection, you strive towards perfection."
"Overall if you take a look at the safety record of what we have
today, I think we can assure people that we have a safe and ample supply
of food in this country," he added. "What people need to understand
and appreciate is that we are taking this report very seriously and
we're following up on the recommendations."
What did Vilsack find most alarming about the report. The lack of any
concerted recall effort when meat failed residue testing. As Vilsack
explains in the interview, FSIS does not have the authority to mandate
a company recall of meat found to have excessive levels of antibiotics,
heavy metals, or pesticides.
"There's the ability to ask the supplier to recall, but statutorily
we do not have the power," he explained. "The power we have
is the capacity for us to remove our inspectors from a plant, which
effectively shuts down the plant. In terms of mandatory recall authority,
we don't have that."
"It's clear when there is a problem with a lab test failing that
there should be more aggressive recall efforts, that's clear,"
he said. "It's also clear we need to do a better job of more frequent
"We are really focused on trying to reassure the consuming public
of the safety of food, that's our responsibility," he added. "It's
also an effort on our part to make sure that farmers and ranchers are
protected, because obviously when there's a food scare it impacts the
"It's food safety, it's personal safety, it's health, and it's
also protection of the market."
in Pittsburgh Hospital with Guillain-Barre Syndrome caused by Campylobacter-tainted
Team 4 investigator Jim Parsons reports tonight that 67-year old Jim
Orchard drank a bottle of raw milk and is now in intensive care, unable
"They were saying the health benefits, and it was a healthy thing
to do, and we like the taste of it," said Orchard's wife, Maureen.
The Orchards purchased their milk from Pasture Maid Creamery in New
Castle. They didn't know that state officials told consumers in February
2009 to discard Pasture Maid Creamery's milk because it contained pathogenic
bacteria . Campylobacter - and last month, it happened again. The state
agriculture department has suspended the milk production permit of Pasture
State health officials say approximately 10 people became ill after
drinking raw milk from Pasture Maid Creamery. Among them were Maureen
Orchard, her husband, Jim, and her daughter. Everyone got well except
Jim Orchard, who was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder
that attacks the nervous system. He's paralyzed at UPMC Presbyterian
"Nobody can give you a timeline. With everyone, it's different.
And he needs extensive physical therapy, and what that will entail,
we have no idea," Maureen Orchard said.
This is exactly what happened to Mari Tardiff during the Alexandre Eco
Farms Dairy Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak in 2008. On the weekend
after Mari drank raw milk, she developed flu-like symptoms, including
diarrhea and vomiting. By Thursday, June 12, the food poisoning was
overwhelming her body with an amazingly swift force. First her vision
blurred. Then her hands went numb. Mari went to an emergency room, and
there lab work was done and abdominal X-rays were taken. But doctors
could not determine what was wrong. On Friday, Peter took Mari to a
neurologist. An MRI was normal but the doctor and radiologist mentioned
a frightening possibility . Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially fatal
Hours later Mari¡¯s legs were on fire, searing with pain that, ironically,
only hot water helped to soothe. Her legs hurt so much that she soon
retreated to bed, wrapping her legs in warm towels and a heating blanket.
During that night, Mari awoke and realized she could not move. Peter
bear-hugged her to lift her to the toilet and then carried her back
to bed. In the early hours of the morning, he called for help, which
led to an ambulance ride to the small Sutter Coast Hospital, and then
a medivac flight to the Intensive Care Unit at the larger, better-equipped
Rogue Valley Medical Center (RVMC) in Medford, Oregon. She remained
hospitalized for two and one-half months.
Mari was moved to Redding Rehabilitation Hospital and was finally able
to come home on November 1, 2008. Today, Mari lives in her family room,
which now is equipped with a hospital bed, portable toilet, a Hoyer
lift and a stand-up frame, all purchased by the Tardiffs. Using their
own resources, they also renovated a downstairs half-bath and laundry
room into a handicapped-accessible bathroom and shower. The Tardiffs
pay two nurses $10.50 an hour to care for Mari from 7:30 A.M. until
7:00 P.M. five days a week while Peter is at work. Home health physical
and occupational therapists also come to the house five days a week.
Mari still works very hard at therapy but it is a slow, painful process.
Peter has found it so upsetting that he no longer can watch. Every improvement
is celebrated, but he knows how much discomfort and frustration goes
into each minute, regained movement. Mari may never walk again. She
lost her job, she lost her dreams and plans that she held dear. The
illness has been a long, arduous journey for Mari, her family and friends,
and while she has made progress, there remains a long way to go:
Report on Salmonella in Meat and Poultry
Posted on April 21, 2010
by Drew Falkenstein
In 1996, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service established the
HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) rule to verify that
establishments have consistent process control for preventing, eliminating,
or reducing the contamination of raw meat and poultry products with
disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and campylobacter.
The rule, in part, sets performance standards for foodborne pathogens
that slaughter establishments, and establishments that produce raw ground
products, need to meet.
The FSIS recently released its 2009 progress report for Salmonella,
specifically, on raw meat and poultry products:
In calendar year 2009, FSIS analyzed 29,116 verification samples across
eight meat and poultry product classes with the following percent positive
rate of Salmonella per product class: broilers (7.2%), market hog (2.3%),
cow/bull (0.6%), steer/heifer (0.2%), ground beef (1.9%), ground chicken
(18.2%), ground turkey (10.7%) and turkey (3.8%).
Sounds like a lot of salmonella, particularly on broilers, ground chicken,
and ground turkey. As for broilers, the 7.2% contamination rate is actually
a reduction, down from 7.3%, 8.5%, and 11.4% in 2008, 2007, and 2006,
respectively. Ditto for ground chicken and ground turkey, though the
percentage of those raw products that are contaminated remains quite
high. The figure below tracks the incidence of salmonella in raw product
over the course of the last decade: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/uploads/image/figure%20a1.JPG
to Senate: 'Now is the time'
by Helena Bottemiller | Apr
Congressman John Dingell
(D-MI), currently the longest-serving member of Congress and a fierce
advocate for tougher food safety laws, is again calling out the Senate
for stalling on pending food safety legislation to modernize the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration.
"Americans are being forced to play a game of Russian roulette
with the food they eat," wrote Dingell, in an Op-Ed in POLITICO
yesterday. "[L]egislation that could transform the nation's food-safety
laws continues to languish in the Senate, while American families are
forced to hope for the best and fear the worst."
As Dingell notes, the Senate was widely expected to take up the FDA
Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, for a vote this week, but Democratic
leadership decided to instead focus on financial regulatory reform.
The House passed a similar, but stricter, bill with bipartisan support
in July. The Senate version has remained stalled behind other priorities--namely
health care reform--since it was unanimously voted out of committee
in mid-November. According to Dingell, the legislation would make "the
most fundamental changes in our food-safety laws since 1938."
"I know there are many lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, who
care deeply about this," he wrote. "I am appealing to them
to move this bill. President Barack Obama has said he wants something
done. Now is the time to make it happen."
In the article, Dingell emphasizes the importance of timing amidst a
jam-packed legislative agenda. "It is easy to lose sight of the
importance of addressing food safety without a major outbreak in the
news. And it will be easier to overlook the importance of the issue
as we wade deeper into partisan divisions over financial regulatory
reform and Supreme Court matters."
"But we delay action on this bill at the peril of the American
people. We cannot wait for another outbreak before we act," he
added. "To put the Senate's delay to act on similar legislation
in perspective, since the bill passed the House, more than 150 food-related
safety alerts, market withdrawals and recalls have been issued by the
FDA and the food industry."
"There are moments when problems are identified, appropriate solutions
crafted and yet no action is taken to remedy the maladies of the American
people. These moments are rare and unfortunate."
"The House has taken appropriate action," wrote Dingell. "The
longer the Senate delays action, the longer a remedy to a serious problem
The timing of the FDA food safety bill remains uncertain. Meanwhile,
the opposition from small, sustainable farmers is growing, and negotiations
over the final package of amendments are ongoing.
Says Small Plants Need a Break
by Dan Flynn | Apr 21, 2010
The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America,
known as R-CALF USA, wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Hazard
Analysis and Critical Control Point abandoned or revamped with an alternative
meat inspection protocol.
The Billings, MT-based beef producer organization formally requested
the action in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack this week. R-CALF
USA says recently mandated increased microbial testing is not focused
on large slaughter plants, but rather small downstream processors.
."...We are pleased the FSIS is admitting that substantial amounts
of hazardous meat currently is shipped into commerce, in spite of the
fact that the largest slaughter plants have now operated under HACCP
for 12 years," the letter states. "We are dismayed, however,
that the agency's increased validation demands are being focused primarily
against the processing plants further downstream, the vast majority
of which totally depend on meat purchased from upstream, source-slaughter
"...FSIS-style HACCP has resulted in ongoing outbreaks and recurring
recalls, which the agency uses as justification for increased microbial
testing because HACCP plants ship such a high volume of hazardous raw
meat and poultry into commerce bearing the official USDA Mark of Inspection,"
the letter also states. ..
Central to R-CALF USA's food safety beliefs is that corrective actions
must be implemented at the source-slaughtering plant (origin) of contaminated
meat, rather than at destination plants, which essentially are powerless
over the sanitation conditions at their source-slaughter providers.
R-CALF says it is greatly concerned the agency's increased focus will
not only create budgetary concerns that will remove the majority of
small plants from federal and state inspection, but also will simultaneously
insulate the true source of contaminated meat from adequate agency oversight,
virtually guaranteeing ongoing shipment of hazardous meat into commerce.
."The fact that FSIS strongly recommends the testing of incoming
product constitutes an agency admission that the large source-slaughter
plants continue to ship large amounts of contaminated/adulterated meat
into commerce, (and) R-CALF USA believes the solution to this problem
is to detect such meat at the slaughter plant of origin and require
corrective actions at the source, not at the destination," the
Current FSIS guidance will necessitate that plants essentially validate,
via testing, not only HACCP plans, and all Pre-Requisite plans, but
also a multitude of specialty products, which are the unique niche products
that attract consumers to products emanating from small facilities.
In stark contrast, large slaughter plants primarily produce carcasses,
trimmings, and boxed beef, necessitating only three areas to validate,
at most. Small plants, which have substantially less sales revenue and
that are dependent on the manufacture and distribution of specialty
items, will be burdened with enormous increases in microbial testing
expenditures, which their revenues cannot sustain.
The American Association of Meat Processors estimates the initial cost
for the increased testing of ready-to-eat products by smaller plants
at $12,000 per product line, and $3,600 per product line in future years..
R-CALF USA is concerned that small, inspected plants, which are vital
to livestock producers across America, will quickly disappear, eliminating
essential services needed by small, local producers. At the same time
President Obama and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are advocating
the "Know your Farmer, Know your Food" program, this agency
mandate to increase microbial sampling will further separate consumers
from producers because it will result in a lack of processing facilities
required to process locally grown livestock. This policy will effectively
undercut the stated goals of USDA and will result in an increased dependence
on imported meat.. .
"R-CALF USA is concerned that while the agency's mandate for increased
microbial testing is focused as close to the consumer as possible (at
the downstream plants), such testing is also focused as far away as
possible from the source-slaughter plants, which are the origins of
enteric bacteria," said R-CALF USA HACCP Committee Chair John Munsell.
"By FSIS admission, the largest plants constitute only 7 percent
of all federally inspected plants, but produce 90 percent of our meat.
We suggest that 90 percent or more of agency mandated microbial testing
must be focused at the source, not the destination of meat products.".
.R-CALF USA would be more willing to endorse this agency mandate for
increased microbial testing if such testing would result in safer food.
However, since the true origin of contamination with enteric pathogens
continues to remain off the agency's enforcement radar, increased testing
costs would produce no benefits for public health, while effectively
eviscerating America of its small plants. .
."Lastly, R-CALF USA is greatly concerned that FSIS firmly believes
our current HACCP system is so ineffective that the agency perceives
that greatly increased microbial testing must be implemented for validation
purposes, and agency demands for increased testing are symptomatic of
an underlying danger, namely the ineffectiveness of FSIS-style HACCP,"
the letter states. "R-CALF USA respectfully recommends a thorough
overhaul of the agency's current HACCP methodology."
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