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of Over Raw Milk Heats Up
Posted on July 1, 2010 by Bill Marler
Food Safety Advocate Bill Marler educates the public about the potentially
deadly risks of drinking raw milk
The debate over raw milk is heating up. Advocates of the fresh-from-the-farm,
raw dairy product, claim that it is rich in disease-fighting nutrients,
which they believe are lost in the pasteurization process. Meanwhile,
the United States government and food safety advocates, including Bill
Marler, remain firm in their scientifically viable stance that raw milk¡¯s
dangers outweigh any believed benefits.
Bill Marler, who started his crusade for food safety as the lead attorney
for victims of the Jack in the Box Outbreak in 1993, has turned much
of his attention to the dangers of raw milk. ¡°Through my experience
I have found that raw milk produced in small dairy farms is unavoidably
contaminated,¡± said Marler. ¡°We need to make sure milk goes through
pasteurization so we don¡¯t risk our children¡¯s health.¡±
Pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli O157:H7 that are
originally contained in the manure of an infected animal, can contaminate
raw milk and the products that are made from it due to unclean udders,
milking equipment, or a generally unsanitary milking environment. Pasteurization
is the only way to ensure that these dangerous bacteria do not contaminate
products that will be consumed raw.
It is already illegal to sell raw milk in 28 states, but a small, yet
passionately devoted raw milk following is trying to loosen the states¡¯
regulatory grip in spite of the long history of outbreaks associated
with the product. ¡°I cringe at the anti-science blather protesting that
all outbreaks linked to raw milk never happened, or were caused by something
else, or were part of some dark conspiracy designed to discredit what
is really a wonder-product,¡± said Marler. ¡°The truth is these outbreaks
do happen, including 10 since January alone.¡±
The outbreaks that Marler references have occurred in 9 different states,
including Washington, Utah, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York,
Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Washington and Utah have each seen two
raw milk outbreaks since the beginning of the year. Health officials
from the affected states have counted over 50 confirmed illnesses from
infection by Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, and one victim
of the Pennsylvania outbreak developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
and is still hospitalized.
In March, the debate boiled over in our nation¡¯s ¡°dairy state¡± when
a hearing turned into a rally on the Raw Milk Act. While it was eventually
vetoed, this bill in the Wisconsin Legislature would have allowed the
state¡¯s dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers.
Marler was one of several concerned food safety advocates and industry
representatives who had who consulted with Wisconsin¡¯s governor about
Marler¡¯s crusade against raw milk is personal ? he never again wants
to see a client like Chris Martin, who, at age seven, developed an infection
from exposure to E. coli O157:H7 that almost took his life after he
drank raw milk.
In addition to his influence on the Wisconsin bill, Marler played a
similar role in convincing the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenager,
to veto a bill that would have liberalized the production and sale of
But Marler sees that the problem is much bigger than proposed bills
in a couple of states. ¡°A level of education needs to happen. There
is so much misinformation about the benefits of raw milk?it¡¯s been touted
as a cure-all for everything from allergies to asthma. This is simply
not true and whatever possible good comes from raw milk is greatly outweighed
by the fact that it can kill you.¡±
This spring, Marler helped spearhead the collaborated launch of RealRawMilkFacts.com
(www.realrawmilkfacts.com), a new website that reveals the benefits
as well as the risks of consuming raw milk, and gives up-to-the-minute
coverage on all raw milk-related news, including contamination outbreaks
and related recalls. Marler collaborated with scientists, food safety
advocates and health educators from university, government, industry,
and professional organizations, on the website¡¯s content. The site provides
clarity on evidence-based studies, presentations, commentaries, regulations,
and position statements on the beverage and its use.
Marler also launched the Foodborne Illness Outbreak Database (www.outbreakdatabase.com),
a web-based, searchable database of illness outbreaks caused by consumption
of contaminated food or water, exposure to animals, or contact with
persons ill with a food or waterborne disease. The site includes outbreaks
related to raw milk, and provides comprehensive details, including the
dairies or farms that sold the product.
¡°Consumers need outbreak information available to them so they can make
informed decisions about what they eat and drink, in the case of raw
milk. Businesses that poison their customers need to have a light shone
on them so both policy makers and other business can learn from the
mistakes¡±, said Marler, ¡°Our free market does not function if information
about the safety of our food is hidden from us.¡±
Raw Milk Consumers:
'Don't Turn Us Into Criminals'
by Cookson Beecher | Jul 02, 2010
'Don't turn us into criminals' raw milk consumers plead in suit against
Raw milk consumers have joined forces in a legal battle against the
federal Food and Drug Administration's ban against the sale and distribution
of raw milk and raw milk products (pdf) for human consumption across
The focus on consumers, not farmers, is one of the distinctive features
of the lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal
Defense Fund against FDA and its parent agency, the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services.
The Virginia-based organization filed the suit in February in U.S. District
Court, Northern District of Iowa, on behalf of its national membership
base and in conjunction with 10 other plaintiffs--consumers and a dairy
farmer from six different states. Two of the plaintiffs live in Iowa.
All of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit live in states where raw
milk--milk that hasn't been pasteurized to kill potentially harmful
or deadly pathogens--is not allowed to be sold: Iowa, North Carolina,
Georgia, and New Jersey.
According to the legal papers filed by the Fund, the plaintiffs buy
their raw milk in states just across the border where raw milk sales
are allowed. But in doing that, they're breaking the law when they bring
the milk back home with them.
"Ultimately, this is a consumer-driven issue," Pete Kennedy,
a Florida attorney who serves as president of the Fund, told Food Safety
News in a phone interview on June 28. "We want to help consumers
go across state lines to buy raw milk and return home with it without
being worried that they're committing a crime."
For Kennedy, and raw milk advocates across the nation, the important
issue in this is the freedom of choice.
"We believe consumers have the right to obtain what they want to
eat and drink from the sources they choose," he said.
One of the legal flash points in this controversy is FDA's definition
of milk that's involved in interstate commerce.
According to the agency's "standard of identity for milk,"
milk is "the lacteal secretion . . . . obtained by the complete
milking of one or more healthy cows" that "in the final package
form for beverage use shall have been pasteurized or ultra pasteurized."
In other words, milk involved in interstate commerce that hasn't been
pasteurized but is sold as milk for human consumption is misbranded,
which is a violation of federal law.
Kennedy said the plaintiffs in this case want the court to rule that
FDA's regulations pertaining to the interstate ban of raw milk for human
consumption are illegal when applied to them so that they may "travel
across state lines with legally obtained raw dairy products."
They're also fighting for what they believe is their constitutional
right to provide for the care and well-being of themselves and their
families and to produce, obtain, and consume the foods of their choice.
Kennedy said the plaintiffs are seeking a ruling that the interstate
ban is unconstitutional, or an excess of FDA's regulatory powers, in
the way it has been applied to them.
"They're not saying it should be struck down," he said.
But when looking ahead, Kennedy readily said that if the court rules
in the plaintiffs' favor, it would "hopefully, open the door for
thousands of other consumers across the nation who have to go across
state lines to buy raw milk."
"Hopefully, it would set a precedent," he said.
Twenty-eight states currently allow the intrastate sale of raw milk,
although with varying restrictions.
Not surprisingly, the two federal agencies fired back against the Fund's
lawsuit, asking the court to dismiss it.
The agencies' reasons for doing so left many raw milk advocates in what
could be described as a state of shock infused with outrage, with some
contending that the FDA wants control over everything a person or family
In its legal papers to the court (pdf), the federal agencies assert
and give reasons why, contrary to contentions in the lawsuit, there's
no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food; there
is no generalized right to bodily and physical health; and there is
no fundamental right to freedom of contract.
"FDA's goals in regulating the interstate sale and distribution
of unpasteurized milk are manifestly appropriate, and the regulations
that FDA adopted are an undeniably rational way of pursuing them,"
say the agencies in the motion to dismiss.
But that's not the way Eric Wagoner, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit,
The owner as well as a member of an Internet-based "virtual farmers
market" known as "Athens Locally Grown," which is based
in Georgia, Wagoner lives in Georgia close to the South Carolina border.
At the time he submitted his affidavit to the court last fall, approximately
2,000 members of Athens Locally Grown placed orders for products listed
by 100 farmers on the organization's site. Some of the members and farmers
live in Georgia; some live in neighboring South Carolina.
According to his affidavit, on Oct. 15, 2009, one of the organization's
volunteers drove Wagoner's delivery truck from South Carolina, where
raw milk is allowed to be sold in stores, to Georgia where raw milk
sales are banned.
Of the 110 gallons of raw milk the truck was carrying, two of the gallons
Upon reaching Georgia, the truck was searched and seized by officials
from Georgia without a warrant. They also embargoed the raw milk in
the truck without a search warrant, the affidavit says.
But Wagoner was allowed to drive his truck and its contents to his home,
where it was parked until Oct. 19.
On Oct. 19, the 110 gallons of raw milk were destroyed at the order
of the Georgia officials and of the FDA without a warrant or other legal
process, according to Wagoner's affidavit.
His affidavit names Marybeth Willis from the FDA's Atlanta office as
the FDA agent who ordered him to destroy the milk.
The milk dumping was video taped in two parts, with Willis identified
in the first video.
Wagoner said that Willis told him that if you go to a dairy to buy raw
milk for your own use and bring it back to your own home in Georgia,
you would be a federal criminal.
Wagoner doesn't feel like a criminal. Instead, he sees himself as the
owner and a member of a non-profit that helps consumers obtain healthy,
locally grown food and milk.
In his case, the FDA's stance on interstate sales and distribution of
raw milk just doesn't make sense.
In an email to Food Safety News, he said that while FDA has declared
that raw milk is inherently unsafe, the lawmakers in South Carolina
recognize that it's not the milk, itself, but certain bacteria and other
contaminants that are unsafe.
Pointing out that raw milk is available in grocery stores in South Carolina,
Wagoner said South Carolina officials are "comfortable in allowing
this because raw milk is highly regulated" in that state.
He told Food Safety News that he believes people have the right to cross
state lines to buy raw milk because the federal government has not been
given the constitutional authority to set up "customs inspections"
at state boundaries.
"In my case, I had legally purchased an item available off the
shelf at regular grocery stores, approved by both the state of South
Carolina and the USDA, crossed a bridge, and returned home," he
Wagoner said FDA then came to his house and ordered that his own personal
milk in his own personal refrigerator be destroyed, without a warrant,
a court order, or compensation.
He also pointed out that he did not cross state lines to buy milk for
anyone but himself. The dairies sold the milk to the other members of
his organization before it got picked up.
"Every gallon that was picked up was sold prior to it getting picked
up, and every gallon had a person's name attached to it," he said.
"Never was a drop of milk taken across states lines to be sold
by myself, the dairy, or anyone else involved."
In its June 21 reply in support of the motion to dismiss the case, the
federal government describes Wagoner's allegations that he destroyed
the raw milk inside his house under orders from the FDA as "bizarre."
"Because Mr. Wagoner's 'alleged facts' are nothing more than unsupported
conclusions, unwarranted inferences and sweeping legal conclusions,
this court is not required to accept them as true," says the agencies'
motion to dismiss.
On a more technical matter, the agencies are asking the court to dismiss
the case for the suit's failure to state a claim upon which relief can
"Had FDA actually ordered the destruction of the milk as alleged,
the proper venue in which to object would have been in the seizure action
itself, wherein Mr. Wagoner would have had an opportunity to appear
as a claimant and to have a full hearing before the court."
That gets Wagoner's goat.
"It's undeniable that government agents came to my house and ordered
me to destroy the milk," he said. "Now the FDA is claiming
that's not the case."
In all of the legal twists and turns in this case, the federal government
does offer a possible way for the interstate raw milk ban to be re-evaluated.
Pointing out that the parties in the case didn't exhaust their "administrative
remedies," the agencies say that filing a citizen petition with
the FDA is required before any legal action is filed in a court.
"In bypassing the administrative process, plaintiffs have precluded
meaningful and efficient review," says the motion to dismiss.
The motion to dismiss goes on to say that requiring plaintiffs to submit
a citizen petition to FDA before seeking judicial review "would
allow FDA to consider and address plaintiffs' concerns and could potentially
resolve those concerns, or at the very least, the administrative process
might crystalize the issues in contention."
But Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund told Food Safety
News that FDA has not yet responded to a citizen petition that California
raw milk producer Mark McAfee filed on Feb. 22, 2008.
In that petition, McAfee asked FDA to allow the interstate shipment
of raw dairy products between two different states in the U.SA. that
both allow the legal sale of raw dairy products.
In his affidavit submitted to the court as part of the suit against
the federal government, McAfee said that as of June 7, 2010, more than
500 days later, FDA hadn't responded to the petition even though the
agency is generally required to respond to a citizen petition in 180
For that reason, McAfee believes that filing a citizen petition is futile.
Kennedy agrees, saying that the FDA has a "closed mind on this
and refuses to debate people on this issue."
"It would be completely futile to go through an administrative
action," he said. "We already know what they'll say."
Even so, McAfee told Food Safety News that he sees some hopeful signs
on the horizon.
"The times, they are a changin,'" he said. "And the more
we go forward, the more we realize that man has messed with Mother Nature
and made quite a mess. Quickly . . . we must recognize the errors and
return to whole unprocessed foods. Raw milk is leading the way."
Food safety attorney Bill Marler agrees with McAfee that the times are
always changing. But he has a an opposing view on this particular issue.
"One change is the public wants more protection from unsafe milk,
not less," Marler said. "That's why Congress has instructed
the FDA to keep raw milk out of interstate commerce. This is an example
of why the Interstate Commerce Clause is in the U.S. Constitution. I
do not see the federal courts changing that."
In enacting the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, Congress directed
the FDA to "protect the public health by ensuring that foods are
safe, wholesome, sanitary, and properly labeled."
As part of rulemaking, FDA declared a ban on the interstate sale of
unpastuerized milk, noting the link between raw milk and outbreaks of
two serious bacterial diseases, campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis,
which can "on rare occasions result in death."
According to FDA, its regulations prohibiting the interstate sale and
distribution of unpasteurized milk promotes "bodily and physical
The hearing in federal district court will address whether the lawsuit
should be dismissed on the grounds raised by the defendants, but will
not otherwise address the factual merits of the plaintiffs' claims.
A date for hearing the oral arguments is expected to be set later this
month, although it could be later than that due to a heavy court calendar.
Food safety concerns mount as oil found in Gulf crabs
The massive Gulf oil spill is raising seafood safety questions, as university
scientists report finding oil droplets in crab larvae.
The larvae of blue crabs and fiddler crabs from Louisiana to Pensacola,
Fla., contain oil droplets, reports scientists from the University of
Southern Mississippi and Tulane University in New Orleans, according
to the Biloxi Sun Herald.
"We will see this enter the food chain in a lot of ways,"
Harriet Perry, director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development
at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, said in the story. "Fish
are going to feed on (crab larvae). We have also just started seeing
it on the fins of small, larval fish ? their fins were encased in oil.
That limits their mobility, so that makes them easy prey for other species."
Perry told the McClatchy paper that researchers have not yet linked
the crab larvae's hydrocarbons to the BP disaster, but she has little
doubt the Gulf spill is the source. In her 42 years of studying blue
crab, she said she's never seen such contamination.On Tuesday, during
his first visit to the Gulf region since the spill began April 20, Vice
President Biden announced a new federal effort to ensure seafood safety.
He said two federal agencies -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration and the Food and Drug Administration -- will form a partnership
to test seafood and decide which areas are OK for fishing.
Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator at NOAA's National Marine Fisheries
Service, said in an announcement of the new effort:
No single agency could adequately ensure the safety of seafood coming
from the Gulf following this tragedy, but in working together, we can
be sure that tainted waters are closed as appropriate, contaminated
seafood is not allowed to make it to market, and that closed waters
can be reopened to fishing as soon as is safe.
The agencies will be coordinating with state officials to close fishing
and shellfish harvesting areas in the Gulf of Mexico that have been
or are likely to be exposed to oil from the spill.
Federal officials say they are also testing fish caught just outside
of closed areas to ensure these areas are large enough to prevent the
harvest of contaminated fish.
"So far," the announcement said, "fish flesh tested from
outside the closure areas have tested well below any level of concern
for oil-based contamination."
FDA Sued for Failure to Regulate BPA
by Michelle Greenhalgh | Jul 06, 2010
The National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) citing the FDA's failure to act on
a petition to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging, food
containers, and other materials likely to come into contact with food
The National Resources Defense Council claims that the FDA has failed
to take action for over 18 months in response to an October 2008 NRDC
petition (pdf), even though the organization expressed concern about
the effects of early life exposure to BPA on brain and reproductive
The council's petition claims that existing scientific evidence is more
than enough to deduce that BPA in our food supply is a human health
BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastics, commonly used in consumer
products such as baby bottles, sippy cups, and reusable water bottles.
In addition to plastics, BPA is also in the resin lining of canned food
and beverages such as beer and soda cans as well as canned liquid infant
formula. Humans are usually exposed to BPA by eating contaminated food
or using infant formula, eating canned food, or drinking canned beverages.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, the FDA has been
slow to acknowledge the current science on BPA and has been reluctant
to regulate the use of the chemical in food and beverage packaging.
The group states that millions of Americans will continue to be exposed
to dangerous levels of BPA on a daily basis if the FDA does not take
One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that
over 90 percent of Americans tested were found to have residues of BPA
in their blood, while other research shows that babies are being born
with BPA already present in their blood, which indicates that they are
being exposed through their mothers before birth.
When humans are exposed to BPA, it can act like female sex hormone,
estrogen and can interfere with normal development and function of the
body. In animal studies, exposure early in life to BPA has been linked
to prostate cancer, breast cancer, pre-diabetes, changes in fat metabolism,
chromosome abnormalities, and changes in the way the brain develops,
resulting in behavioral abnormalities.
The National Resources Defense Council offers the following guidelines
for avoiding and reducing exposure to BPA:
1. Limit your consumption of canned food by eating fresh or frozen produce
and buying processed food in "brick" cartons, pouches or glass,
2. Limit your consumption
of canned soda and beer - where possible choose glass as an alternative,
3. If you have a newborn, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate
(hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They are marketed with the recycling
symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC" (Not all #7 plastics
are polycarbonates-the only way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer),
4. Use BPA-free reusable water bottles, such as unlined, stainless steel
5. Don't allow children to have dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE)
applied to their teeth, and don't have these sealants applied to your
teeth while you are pregnant. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.
Need a Modern Food Safety System'
by Helena Bottemiller | Jul 07, 2010
Author Eric Schlosser Films Action Alert for Food Safety Bill, As Timing
in Senate Remains Uncertain
Consumers Union (CU) is adding some star power to their food safety
advocacy efforts. Eric Schlosser, award-winning author of Fast Food
Nation and co-producer of Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. recently filmed
a video action alert for the group, calling on the Senate to pass a
bill to overhaul the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) dilapidated
food safety system.
The pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which would boost the
agency's authority and mandate, has been stalled in the Senate since
it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November. A slew of
pressing legislative priorities--from health care to Wall Street reform--have
left little time on the Senate floor.
The food safety bill continues to have broad bipartisan support, especially
as small farmer concerns are ironed out. It is simply a matter of time.
In last week's action alert, Schlosser and Consumers Union sent out
a clear message: tell your Senators to make the food safety bill a priority.
In just under a week the alert has inspired over 12,000 emails, and
likely a high volume of calls, to Capitol Hill.
The alert also caught the attention of Congressman John Dingell, who
tweeted the link to his followers with an enthusiastic "Bravo!"
Dingell is among the House members constantly hammering the Senate to
move on the bill. The House passed a similar version last July with
In the action alert, Schlosser points to the the oft-cited foodborne
illness statistics. "Those numbers are way too high," he said.
"The centralization and industrialization of our food system has
made it very easy for dangerous pathogens to spread far and wide. That's
why we need a modern food safety system," he says in the video.
"We've seen what happens when we let Wall Street regulate itself,
and when we let the oil industry regulate itself. It makes absolutely
no sense to let the food industry continue regulating itself."
Schlosser urged people to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and ask them to make the bill a priority
for the next work period.
"I see why there are so many other issues--like saving the economy
from collapse--that they've had to deal with, but this one seems like
a no brainer," Schlosser told Food Safety News in an interview.
"It's not a hot button political issue like abortion or gun control
where there are passionate divisions and people on each side. There's
really nobody saying 'I want MRSA in my pork' or 'I want E. coli in
my ground beef.'"
"I think it's tragic if these people in Washington are behind the
curve, especially when the cost of being behind the curve is so high,"
Food safety advocates are still optimistic the Senate could take up
the bill in the next work period, before the month-long August recess.
Senate staff tend to agree there is a possibility, but the timing, as
it has for months, remains uncertain.
When the Senate returns from the Fourth of July recess the food safety
bill will compete with a Supreme Court nomination, climate change, and
jobless benefits for floor time.
Future Remains Unknown
by Dan Flynn | Jul 07, 2010
Maybe now if the Gulf seafood industry could just see over the horizon,
it would be comforted just by knowing what's really ahead. Instead,
in the 79 days since the Deepwater Horizon blew up, safe seafood from
the Gulf remains an elusive possibility, but that's about it.
That became even more apparent Tuesday when tar balls were found floating
right next to New Orleans in Lake Pontchartrain. Churning wind and waves
Oil has now washed up on the beaches of all five Gulf states from Texas
to Florida and an estimated 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day continue
to gush from the sea floor.
The areas closed to fishing, up to 95 percent of state waters and 34
percent of the U.S. economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico, are said to
be there to protect both consumers and the seafood industry.
The federal closure area peaked on June 21 when it represented almost
36 percent of the Gulf economic zone.
Over the long 4th of July weekend, the closed federal waters again expanded
to 81,181 square miles, an area roughly the same size as the State of
Kansas. The expand closure zone came after the first hurricane of the
season (Alex) churned up Gulf waters before making landfall in Mexico.
Not being able to see what's ahead does not mean there are plenty of
developments that will impact the future availability and safety of
Gulf seafood. Some of these include:
Food Chain--Droplets of oil were found inside the larvae of blue crabs
and fiddler crabs by University of Southern Mississippi and Tulane University
scientists. Oil in the Gulf seafood chain is news of the worst kind
because it puts hydrocarbons in the food chain. The findings caught
state fisheries officials off guard.
Bacteria Threat--In case anyone forgot in all the excitement over the
BP oil spill, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public
Interest (CSPI) reminded consumers that during warm summer months the
biggest threat that comes with the consumption of Gulf oysters is that
good old stand-by, Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.
Ingredients Lost--New Orleans Chefs are warning the loss of Gulf seafood
means the loss of Cajun Cuisine. One study shows 240 "place-based"
foods that might be lost as it takes various kinds of fish and vegetables
to make many Cajun and Creole dishes.
Po-boys Off the Menu--Rising prices and limited supply for oysters and
finish are forcing local restaurants to drop one of their menu staples--the
That's their story--Both when the President last visited and more recently
when Vice President Joe Biden made a swing through the Gulf states,
the White House pitched the collaboration among state and federal agencies
to keep Gulf seafood safe to eat. For as often as they've trumpeted
the work, yet little factual data has come out of the agencies responding
for food safety, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
State Closures--Louisiana announced closures to recreational and commercial
fishing in portions of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes that went
into effect Monday.
The portion of the state inside waters east of the Mississippi River
north of the eastern shore of Main Pass and south of the Mississippi
River Gulf Outlet from the double rig link westward to the eastern shore
of the Mississippi River and north along 89 degrees 42 minutes 32 seconds
west longitude near the western shore of twin pipeline canals.
The closures were called "precautionary." Louisiana will conduct
seafood testing in the area.
Mississippi has banned all commercial and recreational fishing, including
all species of finfish, crabs, shrimp, and oysters off most of its coastline.
Alabama's state waters outside Mobile Bay are open only to recreational
catch and release fishing.
Florida's state waters are closed off Escambia County. All other Florida
waters remain open.
Food Safety Act
Published: July 7, 2010 at
WASHINGTON, July 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday
the Food Safety Modernization Act will give the government the tools
necessary to keep the nation's food supply safe.
"A year ago today, the Food Safety Working Group, chaired by Health
and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack, announced key findings on how to upgrade the food safety
system. Since then, my administration has taken steps to reduce the
prevalence of E. coli, implemented new standards to reduce exposure
to campylobacter, and issued a rule to control salmonella contamination,"
Obama said in a statement.
"Among other accomplishments, the (Food and Drug Administration)
has conducted a pilot study on a tracing system, and HHS, in collaboration
with USDA, has rolled out an enhanced and updated www.foodsafety.gov
site to provide consumers rapid access to information on food recalls.
"But there is more to be done. Today, I thank the House for its
work and support efforts in the Senate to pass S. 510, the FDA Food
Safety Modernization Act. This bipartisan bill would complement the
work already undertaken by the Food Safety Working Group. The bill addresses
longstanding challenges in the food safety and defense system by promoting
a prevention-oriented approach to the safety of our food supply and
provides the federal government with the appropriate tools to accomplish
its core food safety goals."
The Food Safety Modernization Act was originally expected to be signed
into law in May. The Senate took up the measure for discussion Wednesday.
Food Dyes Linked
to Cancer, ADHD, Allergies
by Laurel Curran | Jul 08, 2010
These days it's ordinary to cool off with a magenta popsicle or quench
thirst with a neon green sports drink. Vibrantly colored foods have
become the norm, but studies show that popular food dyes carry profound
risks. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently
published a comprehensive report called "Food Dyes: A Rainbow of
Risks" (pdf) which details the inherent risks of nine different
dyes widely used in common foods.
The report reveals that common food dyes pose risks of cancer, hyperactivity
in children, and allergies.
The food industry dumps over 15 million pounds of the dyes studied into
the food supply each year. Three of the dyes carry known carcinogens,
and 4 can cause serious allergic reactions in some consumers. New studies
show that seven of them contributed to cancer in lab animals, including
brain and testicular tumors, colon cancer, and mutations.
"These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the
nutritional quality or safety of foods, but trigger behavior problems
in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody," said CSPI executive
director Michael F. Jacobson.
James Huff, an associate at the National Toxicology Program commented,
"Some dyes have caused cancers in animals, contain cancer-causing
contaminants, or have been inadequately tested for cancer or other problems.
Their continued use presents unnecessary risks to humans, especially
young children. It's disappointing that the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]
has not addressed the toxic threat posed by food dyes."
CSPI mailed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last
week detailing a request that food dyes be banned in the United States
to protect consumers. CSPI charges that the FDA is failing to enforce
the law in the following ways:
- "Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment,
because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990),
as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing
- Evidence suggests, though
does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40 and Yellow 6 cause
cancer in animals. There is certainly not "convincing evidence"
- Dyed foods should be considered
adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food "appear
better or of greater value than it is"--typically by masking the
absence of fruit, vegetable or other more costly ingredient."
CSPI charges that the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) knows about the health risks imposed by
the presence of these dyes, but has not acted to protect consumers.
Despite the risks, Red 3 remains in our food supply today, with over
200,000 pounds poured into processed foods each year, including ConAgra's
Kid Cuisine frozen meals and Betty Crocker's Fruit Roll-Ups.
Experts admit that in order to conclusively state the extent of harm
imposed by these dyes more comprehensive testing should take place.
Many consumer advocacy groups are calling on the FDA to carry out its
own tests on the dyes if the results of these other tests are not conclusive.
British lawmakers reacted to the findings of these studies and already
forced companies to phase out the harmful dyes served in Britain before
January of this year. Additionally, the European Union passed a law
that goes into effect on July 20 requiring companies to post a notice
on each dyed product sold in Europe. The notice states, "May have
an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."
This law is expected to encourage the companies still using these dyes
to completely eliminate them inside all of Europe over the next year.
Color is used to attract consumers, and the good news is that synthetic,
petroleum-based dyes are not irreplaceable. There are a lot of natural
dyes that can be used to brighten food. Blueberry juice concentrate,
carrot juice, paprika, grape skin extract, beet juice, purple sweet
potato, corn, and red cabbage are just a few alternative dyes.
CSPI names a few stark differences in foods served in the United States
and Europe in the report. In Britain, Fanta orange soda is dyed with
pumpkin and carrot extract while the U.S. version is dyed with Red 40
and Yellow 6. Kellogg Strawberry NutriGrain bars are colored with Red
40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 in the U.S., but with beetroot, annatto and
paprika extract in the UK. McDonald's Strawberry Sundaes are colored
with strawberries in Britain but with Red dye 40 in America.
Consumer advocacy groups are calling on the FDA to enact similar policies
in the United States. These groups argue that we deserve real strawberries
E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks with Colorado beef link
Posted on July 5, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
On Friday we learned that Rocky Mountain Natural Meats, a Henderson,
Colorado meat business, was recalling approximately 66,000 pounds of
bison products due to potential contamination by E. coli O157:H7. The
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service became aware of the problem
during the course of an on-going investigation into a cluster of E.
coli O157:H7 illnesses in Colorado with illness onset dates between
June 4, 2010 and June 9, 2010. Working in conjunction with the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration,
the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the New
York Department of Health, 5 cases were been identified in Coloradoand
1 in New York with indistinguishable strains of E. coli. FSIS determined
that there is an association between the ground bison products and the
cluster of illnesses in the state of Colorado.
Of course, Colorado has seen, or been the source state of, beef E. coli
O157:H7 outbreaks before. In the spring of 2009, a multistate E. coli
outbreak was discovered involving ground beef produced by the JBS Swift
Company at their Greeley, Colorado location. Most ill persons had consumed
ground beef; many reported that it was undercooked. Samples from unopened
packages of ground beef recovered from a patient's home were tested
by the Michigan Public Health Laboratory. These yielded E. coli O157:H7
that matched the "DNA fingerprint" of the outbreak strain.
Twenty three persons had been infected with the strain that matched
by standard DNA testing. The beef was sold in the United States and
Mexico. Mexican health officials banned further importation of the meat.
And in 2002, the Colorado Department of Health identified an outbreak
of E.coli O157:H7 infections in Colorado residents. The strain of E.coli
isolated from these ill persons was subsequently found to match strains
of E.coli from other cases in Colorado and other states. The initial
epidemiological investigation implicated ground beef purchased at Kroger's
grocery stores. The ground beef was produced by ConAgra Beef Company.
On June 30, independent of the outbreak, the ConAgra Beef Company issued
a nationwide recall of 354,200 pounds of ground beef produced on May
31. The recall resulted from routine microbiological testing that had
been conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The strain
of E.coli that had been found in this hamburger matched the strain of
E.coli that had been isolated from the ill persons. Subsequent to the
detection of this multistate outbreak and the plant inspection, the
ground beef recall was expanded nationwide. An additional 18.6 million
pounds of fresh and frozen ground beef and beef trimmings were recalled.
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspector general blamed
both federal meat inspectors and ConAgra Beef Company for errors contributing
to the outbreak. Evidence of E.coli O157:H7 contamination had been ignored
since January, 2001, more than a year before this outbreak was detected.
And in 1997, 15 unlucky Coloradans were felled by E. coli O157:H7 after
consuming pre-formed, frozen ground beef patties produced by Hudson
Foods Company. Five patients were hospitalized, but none developed hemolytic
uremic syndrome or died. Eleven (79%) of 14 patients reported eating
frozen pre-formed ground beef patties or burgers at least once during
the 7-day period preceding illness onset; eight specifically recalled
eating Hudson Foods brand product, and three, who could not recall a
specific brand name, identified package labeling consistent with Hudson
Foods brand. Hudson Foods beef burgers collected from the freezers of
two of the 15 patients bore the identical lot number (156A7); both yielded
E. coli O157:H7 when cultured at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
(USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service Laboratory in Athens, Georgia.
Update: Colorado dairy linked to 26 E. coli and Campylobacter
By Julian Martin
July 6, 2010
Two more illnesses have been linked to raw goat milk sold from a Colorado
farm, the Boulder County Health Department announced Friday.
The announcement brings the total number of E. coli and Campylobacter
reports in connection with the Billy Goat Dairy in Longmont, Colo.,
Billy Goat Dairy sells unpasteurized milk to 43 households as part of
a herd share program, in which residents purchase a share of a goat
in exchange for raw milk. Health officials are contacting members of
the program to check for symptoms, according to the Daily Camera.
"We're still trying to determine if it's isolated or ongoing,"
said Murielle Romine, of Boulder County Public Health, to The Daily
Camera. "It is just very hard to gauge at this point if there is
an exact date of suspect milk."
The Billy Goat Dairy was ordered by the health department to stop distributing
milk during the investigation. Department officials said they discovered
sanitation issues, incorrectly labeled products and milk being stored
at improper temperatures. The dairy will be allowed to resume selling
raw milk once all the problems have been addressed, and the investigation
is complete, according to CBS4.
Raw milk is milk that has not been heated to a temperature capable of
killing harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella. While interstate
sales of raw milk are illegal, unpasteurized milk sales are legal in
26 states. In Colorado, raw milk sales are illegal in stores, but are
allowed as part of herd share agreements.
Also known as gastro flu, Campylobacter can cause diarrhea, vomiting,
abdominal pain, fever, headache and muscle pain. E. coli can lead to
severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting two to five days
after eating the contaminated products.
A year later,
'heroic' E. coli survivor still battling
By Val Willingham, CNN
July 6, 2010 12:47 p.m. EDT
¡¤ E. coli survivor still
in rehab, battling to reclaim life
¡¤ Las Vegas woman ate cookie
dough, endured coma, seizures, organ failure
¡¤ CDC: 76,000 people get
E. coli 0157 annually. About 2,500 are hospitalized; 50 to 100 die
¡¤ Patient must relearn to
walk, tell time, remember dates and use her fingers
San Francisco, California
(CNN) -- It was prom night, May 2009, and Linda Rivera of Las Vegas,
Nevada, was making goodies for her twin sons' party.
Breaking out a tub of cookie
dough, she nibbled on a couple of bites as she portioned scoop after
scoop onto the baking sheet. She never thought much about it. She had
made cookies from refrigerated cookie dough a dozen times before.
The party went off without
a snag. And Linda went on with life. But two days later, she began to
feel sick -- really sick.
"I felt like I had the
cold, the flu, something like that " she said. "It seemed
like it would pass but I started throwing up. I even had blood in my
It got so bad, her husband,
Richard, took her to the hospital. Physicians in the emergency room
diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome and sent her home. But she didn't
get better. Her husband knew something was wrong. "She was vomiting
every five minutes."
She told him, "If I
have to go through this one more day, I will die," he said.
Two days later, Linda Rivera
was rushed back to the hospital. She was dehydrated, weak and could
barely walk. After more tests, doctors told Richard Rivera that his
wife had contracted E. coli and that it was destroying her colon. They
moved her to the Intensive Care Unit.
"E. coli -- I heard
of it but I didn't really know much about it. They kept her in a doctor's-induced
coma for 10 to 12 days. But she was strong. We played the Beach Boys'
'Kokomo,' and she would move her foot and mouth to the words during
the coma, so we knew she was there," said Richard Rivera.
Each year about 76,000 people
get Linda Rivera's strain of bacteria -- E. coli O157-- according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 2,500 are hospitalized
and 50 to 100 people die from it each year. E. coli O157 lives in the
colon and feces of animals and humans. In certain situations, it can
taint food, particularly raw meat and vegetables. Although salmonella
kills more people than E. coli, because more people get it, the effects
of E. coli, according to health experts, are much more severe. Ingest
a strong strain of it, doctors say, and it can shut down your entire
A couple of bites of cookie
dough. That's all it took.
--Linda Rivera, E. coli survivor
Although Linda Rivera came
out of her coma within two weeks, it was only the beginning. She'd had
part of her colon removed before she fell unconscious. She had multiple
seizures and her liver and kidneys stopped functioning.
"After she came out
of her coma she started to respond more," her husband said.
"But then she went into
cardiac arrest and she started to swell up. They had to do emergency
dialysis. They pulled off about 45 pounds of fluid in a three-day period.
That was pretty scary."
Several times clergy were
called to Linda's bedside, but the E. coli didn't win.
"By Christmas I thought
she would be home. She was actually eating. In January she got worse,
but she came back from that."
What caused this once-vibrant
woman to become infected with E. coli? Nevada public health officials
tried to pinpoint the problem. Did the family eat bad meat, tainted
vegetables, strawberries? All those came back negative, until someone
remembered a cookie dough recall due to E. coli contamination.
"A couple of bites of
cookie dough," Linda Rivers said. "That's all it took."
In June 2009, Nestle USA
recalled all its refrigerated and prepackaged cookie dough products
because many were tainted with E. coli bacteria. At least 69 people
from 30 states reportedly suffered from E. coli food poisoning. Nine
of those cases resulted in hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe form
of food poisoning associated with kidney failure. Linda was one of them.
It's believed the wheat used in the dough was contaminated. The company
has since changed the formula for its famous cookie dough.
I have been doing this a
long time and I don't think I have seen anyone this ill make it.
--Bill Marler, attorney
"I have been doing this
a long time and I don't think I have seen anyone this ill make it,"
said the Riveras' attorney, Bill Marler, who has handled hundreds of
cases involving foodborne illness.
"She has basically missed
out on a year of [her children's] lives. It is just devastating."
Linda is still suffering
from the illness, more than a year later. For 12 months she was in and
out of area hospitals in Las Vegas. She was confined to a hospital bed,
unable to work, unable to talk, unable to walk.
She moved to California Pacific
Medical Center in San Francisco, California, two months ago, where she
Her physician, Dr. Phillip
O'Keefe, said he wasn't surprised her body shut down.
"It causes multisystem
disease. I suspect it was the bad luck of the draw in respect to how
much toxin she got."
Now Linda's days are filled
with different forms of therapy. She must learn to walk, tell time,
remember dates and use her fingers. She still gets around in a wheelchair,
but doctors say she is making great progress.
"Linda has improved
since she has been here," said O'Keefe. "Her kidney function
is better. She still has some problem with her liver. Her ability to
deal with the pain and the problems has really been heroic," he
Richard Rivera has been by
Linda's side at every step. It's been a "year of hell," he
I will keep trying. I want
to survive. I don't want this horrible disease to win.
--Linda Rivera, E. coli survivor
Linda Rivera has missed her
twin sons' high school graduation and the birth of her new grandchild,
But she continues to fight,
hoping not to miss more precious moments. "I will keep trying.
I want to survive," she said.
"I don't want this horrible
disease to win. I want the rest of the world to know about this illness."
"It steals your life
away," said her husband.
"She's missed so much.
No family should have to go through this. Linda is probably the most
giving, cheerful and optimistic woman in the world. To see what this
had done to her has just torn me apart."
Through it all, Linda Rivera
remains devoted to her family. "I have a wonderful family, no matter
what the future brings, we have each other."
Richard Rivera agrees.
"Till death do us part,"
If she's forced to be in
a wheelchair for the rest of her life, he said, "I will get one
too and race down the street with her."
year in review . . . so far
Posted on July 6, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
With annual costs attributable to foodpoisoning outbreaks topping $152
billion, there is little doubt that food-related illnesses are a major
public health concern. Salmonella, just one of many potentially lethal
bugs, causes approximately 40,000 confirmed cases of salmonellosis every
year in the US, though the number of actual cases is likely more than
30 times higher. These statistics come as no surprise when you consider
that, as one example only, over 7% of broiler chickens sold at retail
are contaminated by Salmonella.
So what of this year's progress, or lack thereof, on the nasty little
bug that is one of the most common causes of foodpoisoning? Here is
a selection of major Salmonella outbreaks that have occurred since the
beginning of 2010:
ConAgra's Marie Calendar's brand Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen entrees:
ConAgra is, of course, currently embroiled in a Salmonella chester outbreak
linked to its Marie Calendar's brand products. Though the recall was
announced in mid-June, the outbreak may not be over. In fact, as judged
by previous frozen meal Salmonella outbreaks linked to ConAgra products,
many consumers may still have the contaminated Cheesy Chicken and Rice
meals in their freezer, unaware that the product could kill them. To
date, the CDC counts 37 confirmed illnesses nationally in the outbreak.
The outbreak has spawned two lawsuits, on behalf of Oregon men who ate
the product and became ill.
Skokie Country Club: The most recent report is that 37 people have suffered
confirmed Salmonella infections in the Salmonella outbreak at Skokie
Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois. Eight victims have required hospitalization,
and two of those victims remain hospitalized. The strain of Salmonella
in the Skokie Country Club outbreak is Salmonella enteritidis, which
is one of the most common of the 2,000+ different strains of Salmonella.
Serotype enteritidis is frequently, though not always, associated with
the consumption of undercooked eggs.
Kentucky Salmonella Outbreak: Several county health departments and
the state Department for Public Health are investigating an outbreak
of salmonella in three Central Kentucky counties.At least six people
(and likely many more, based on word that has passed through the grapevine)
who live within 5 miles of Berea have contracted the bacterial illness.
Cases have been reported in Rockcastle, Madison and Garrard counties.
Caldwell Fresh Foods Sprouts: As of June 24, 2010, the CDC counted a
total of 44 people infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Newport
in 11 states since March 1, 2010. The outbreak was caused by raw alfalfa
sprouts produced by Caldwell Fresh Foods, a Maywood, California company.
The number of ill people identified in each state with this strain is
as follows: AZ (4), CA (19), CO (1), ID (6), IL (1), MO (2), NM (2),
NV (4), OR (2), PA (1), and WI (2). Illnesses began between March 1,
2010 and June 1, 2010. Among the 34 patients with available hospitalization
information, 7 (19%) were hospitalized.
Utah Raw Milk Outbreak: Utah health officials have linked two outbreaks?one
campylobacter and one salmonella?to the consumption of raw milk. The
campylobacter outbreak is linked to raw milk purchased from Ropelato
Dairy in Ogden, Utah, and has resulted in at least 9 illnesses in residents
of Weber, Davis, and Cache counties. On Monday, the Utah Department
of Health suspended Ropelato Dairy¡¯s permit to sell raw milk. Coliform
testing done on milk at the dairy showed high coliform counts, which
suggest the presence of disease-causing bacteria, like campylobacter,
in the milk.
The second raw milk outbreak in Utah (a salmonella outbreak) sickened
at least 6 people in late April in Utah, Salt Lake, and Wasatch Counties.
The outbreak was linked to raw milk from Redmond Farms in Sevier County.
Samples of raw milk produced at the dairy from April 5 to April 22 tested
positive for Salmonella.
Casa Lopez in Athens, Ohio: The Athens City-County Health Department
noticed a sharp uptick in Salmonella infection in early May 2010, and
were able to trace the outbreak back to Casa Lopez, located at 1017
East State Street in Athens. At least 45 people had confirmed illnesses
in the outbreak, with hundreds likely sickened who did not get tested.
We filed suit on behalf of 19 year old Tyler Nay on June 18.
Los Dos Amigos: Los Dos Amigos, a mexican restaurant in Roseburg, Oregon,
was the site of a large salmonella outbreak in April. Douglas County
health officials report that at least 30 people suffered culture-confirmed
salmonella foodpoisoning illnesses, and that cross-contamination was
probably a cause of the outbreak. We filed suit on May 19 on behalf
of a Roseburg, Oregon resident sickened in the Los Dos Amigos outbreak.
We represent a number of other people sickened in the outbreak as well.
Subway Salmonella in Illinois: Subway restaurants from across the state
of Illinois have been associated with a very large Salmonella Hvittingfoss
outbreak that has sickened around 100 people in 28 counties with confirmed
foodpoisoning illnesses. The actual number of people sick in the outbreak
may be in the thousands, as studies have demonstrated that, in any outbreak
of Salmonella, as many as 38.6 times the number of confirmed illnesses
are actually ill. Subway, which has issued an apology to its customers,
acted quickly on learning of the outbreak to remove many fresh produce
items from its Illinois restaurant locations. There has been no official
word as to which item in particular was the cause of the outbreak. We
filed suit on behalf of Alicea Bush-Bailey in June for injuries suffered
in the outbreak.
Salmonella Montevideo Outbreak linked to Salami and Pepper: According
to the CDC, 272 people were sickened by Salmonella montevideo from since
July 2009 after consuming salami that was manufactured using salmonella-contaminated
red and black pepper. The salami was manufactured and sold by a Rhode
Island company called Daniele Inc. The pepper (both black and red),
which has long been known to have been the original source of contamination,
was imported and sold by two companies: Wholesome Spice Company and
Mincing Oversease Spice Company. We represent a number of people sickened
in the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak, including Ray Cirimile and Lee
Hanks, who have pending lawsuits against the companies involved.
Bullock's BBQ in North Carolina: The Durham County Health Department
(DCHD) investigated a foodpoisoning outbreak among persons who ate food
prepared at Bullock¡¯s Barbecue, located at 3330 Quebec Drive in Durham,
in late April, 2010. Ultimately, the N.C. State Public Health Laboratory
was able to determine that the strain of salmonella involved in the
outbreak was Salmonella enteritidis, likely introduced into the restaurant
environment by contaminated eggs. We represent multiple people for foodpoisoning
illnesses suffered in this outbreak.
Chico "Margarita Mix-off" Outbreak: At least 15 Salmonella
illnesses among residents or visitors to Chico, California have been
linked to the Margarita Mix-Off event held at Manzanita Place on May
8. Health authorities have been unable, thus far, to pinpoint the precise
source of the bacteria; food at the mix-off event was served by at least
six separate local restaurants
Salmonella spinach and lettuce outbreaks and recalls in May: Fresh Express,
a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands International, Inc., lettuce products
caused a Salmonella outbreak in the ¡°Upper-Midwest¡± in late April or
early May 2010. Not much is known about this outbreak, at least publicly,
because the health organizations involved in the investigation did not
publicly reveal that the outbreak had occurred.
Several weeks after the outbreak, however, Fresh Express recalled several
types of ready-to-eat salads after Salmonella was found in a package
tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The recalled products
included lettuce mixes, Caesar salad and other salad kits, hearts of
romaine and other items. The recall extended to products sold in 26
states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho,
Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska,
Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas,
Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Also in May 2010, Organicgirl Produce recalled a limited number of cases
of 10 oz organicgirl Baby Spinach with an expired Use-by Date of May
22 and Product Code 11A061167 due to potential Salmonella contamination.
The recall included only 336 cases of the 10 oz. package size of organicgirl
Baby Spinach sold in six states: Alabama, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin,
Arizona and California. Like the Fresh Express recall, Organicgirl recalled
the baby spinach products due to a positive test for Salmonella in a
random sample test collected and conducted by a third-party laboratory
for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein recall from Basic Foods Flavors: And of
course, one of the biggest food recalls in history deserves mention,
even though it was a recall only, and there were no reported illnesses
linked to the product. Earlier this year, a Nevada company called Basic
Food Flavors recalled its hydrolyzed vegetable protein product, after
testing by a customer showed the the HVP was contaminated by Salmonella
Tennessee. HVP is an ingredient in many further processed food products,
causing the recall to expand, ultimately, to at least 177 separate food
products. Reports suggest that Basic Food Flavors continued to sell
its HVP product for at least a month after learning that the product
was potentially contaminated.
An E. coli Patient's Will to Live, Part II
by Eric Burkett | Jul 08, 2010
Part II in a II-part series on Linda Rivera's battle with E. coli O157:H7.
Once a week, Jeanine Iyala loads her two kids into the car and makes
the roughly 60-mile round trip from Pleasanton to San Francisco to visit
her step-mother at Davies Medical Center. Traveling any distance with
a 2-year-old and a 9-month-old is hardly convenient but for Iyala, it's
a bittersweet experience, as well.
Iyala's step-mother, Linda Rivera, is undergoing physical therapy following
her year-long struggle with E. coli O157:H7, a foodborne pathogen that
kills up to 100 people in the United States each year. It very nearly
killed Linda, three times. She's pulled through, thanks as much to her
doctors as to the sheer force of her family and her own will to survive,
but she's not out of danger yet. Even if she were to experience no more
health complications--and many victims of E. coli continue to feel the
effects years afterward--her battle with the disease has left her seriously
weakened. She only began to walk again about 6 weeks ago.
For the past 15 months, Linda has been hospitalized continuously, save
for a few very brief breaks. She has missed the graduations of three
of her sons, she has missed sports tournaments, the birth of Iyala's
youngest child; she has missed--perhaps most keenly--the experience
of simply being at home with her family.
"At first I was angry," said Iyala, comparing the experience
of coming to terms with Linda's illness to Elizabeth Kubler Ross's classic
five stages of grief. "You know, she's been robbed and we have
been robbed of family times."
Ask Linda's friends and family about the impact of her illness and each
will eventually bring up the subject of loss: the loss of participating
in milestone events, the loss of time with those she loves, the loss
of a woman each had come to admire and rely upon.
Linda is very hands-on with her kids, said Iyala, and she was looking
forward to similar relationships with her grandchildren, rolling around
with them, being right there in the thick of it.
"I know she thinks that's the type of grandma she wants to be,
and it hurts her not to be able to do that."
"I used to be a soccer mom," said Linda, laying her in bed
at Davies. "I miss that."
Linda was the epitome of the soccer mom. With three boys involved in
sports, to say nothing of friends' kids, as well as her own involvement
in pretty much every aspect of her children's school careers, Linda
spent much of what spare time she had either raising money for various
activities at school, or driving kids--everybody's kids--from one place
Robyn Treska, Linda's friend of 23 years, recalled the time Linda was
involved in a serious car accident. She had promised to pick up Treska's
son to take him to a local bowling alley. From the scene of the accident--a
fairly grim incident that left Linda seriously injured--Linda called
her, apologizing that she wouldn't be able to give him a ride.
Even her job--as an aide teaching autistic students in her twin boys'
school--kept Linda near the kids.
"I would always stay in her room during lunch," said 17-year-old
Tony Simpson, one of Linda's twin sons (his brother, Ricky, was out
that day). This past year, he said, was the first time he had ever gone
to school without having her nearby.
Despite a mischievous grin and his fair, blond complexion, an air of
gravity hangs over Tony as he talks about his mother. He estimated he's
been interviewed at least 10 times about the illness that nearly took
her, but that doesn't seem to have lessened the impact of discussing
the matter. It is, he noted, the first time he's been able to talk to
a reporter without tearing up during the interview.
"She's the person I talked to most about everything," he said.
"I could ask her anything, really."
Seated next to him in the small sitting room just off Linda's hospital
room is Emilee Blankenship, Ricky's girlfriend of three years. That
she's there, 400 miles away from her own family back in Henderson, NV,
seems perfectly normal to her. Linda, Emilee said, had welcomed her
into the Rivera family right away. Like Tony, Blankenship took many
of her problems to Linda.
"Once you get support from her," Blankenship said, "she
can cheer you up in a second."
It's not as if Linda can no longer do these things. Nearly everyone
marvels at the fact that Linda still asks "How are you?" when
she sees them, not out of custom but in concern. Despite her own suffering,
she's fully aware of the pain felt by those around her.
"She's still that way," said Treska from her home in Henderson.
"She still worries about the way [her husband] Richard feels and
the way the boys feel."
But Treska sees changes in her friend, as well.
"I've lost the person I talk to the most," she said. Treska's
voice breaks. "We can still talk. She can't hold a conversation
like she used to."
Linda's speech has been affected by the illness, as has her memory.
She has difficulty with numbers; her memory is a little worse for wear.
"I don't think she'll ever drive again," Treska said. "No,
she won't, because of the problem with her eyes."
Linda's son, Tony, understands. "I feel as I've lost half my life,"
he said. His mother doesn't seem like the same person anymore.
For the first time, Linda, an outgoing, active woman, relies on others
for everything. It's difficult for Treska to see her friend this way.
For a long time in the earlier stages of her illness, Linda couldn't
even speak, said Treska, and it left her feeling even more helpless.
The woman to whom everyone else looked for support was afraid to be
"She's dependent now," said Treska. "Hopefully, she can
get some of that back. Right now, she's very, very scared."
A source of strength
In the midst of all this, holding it all together, is Linda's husband
of 13 years, Richard Rivera. A short, stocky guy with a thick mustache,
he beams warmth but even beneath that you can see the cogs spinning,
keeping track of everything that has to be dealt with, sizing up new
elements, appointments that have to be kept, schedules that must be
Linda's physical therapy schedule? He knows it. The kids' flight schedules
for a trip to Hawaii--planned years before--to celebrate their graduation
from high school? He can reel it off. Somehow, he manages other commitments,
as well, maintaining a delicate balance in the midst of a thousand demands
on his attention. Somehow, he manages to remain upbeat.
The Riveras' friends and relatives watch him in amazement.
"I've seen the toll it's taken on him emotionally," said his
daughter, Jeanine Iyala. "He's the most devoted man I've ever met.
It's really renewed my faith in commitment to one another. He does not
leave her side. I have to beg him to leave and to go."
Unsure of just how committed Linda's doctors might be to her recovery,
he educated himself about his wife's condition as much as he could,
"My god, he's a wonderful man," said Robyn Treska, "but
it's got to be hard to sit in that hospital day in and day out. [Linda]
just gets more anxious now. She never used to get anxious before. She
just doesn't feel in control anymore."
If Richard is frightened, he doesn't show it, she said, if he's hurting,
it never comes out. "He needs a medal."
Richard insists his strength comes from Linda. His wife, he said, is
his inspiration. "When times get dark, I'm not the one in that
bed, she is."
There have been a lot of dark times, too many. But he takes whatever
victories he's offered. When Linda first used her walker to walk on
her own, "you'd think the 49ers had won the Super bowl," Iyala
"Richard's my best friend," said Linda, "my lover, my
best friend. He's the one who's worked the hardest, keeping the household
Three times throughout the past year, he watched Linda escape death.
His choice, he decided, was to sit and blame God or to find meaning
in what his family has been forced to endure. They don't take the little
things for granted anymore, he said.
"As long as you keep up the fight," he told Linda, "I'll
stay here with you."
See Part I of the series, "Linda Rivera: An E. coli Patient's Will
to Live", URL: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/07/linda-rivera-an-e-coli-patients-will-to-live/
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