Update (March 29, 5:30 PM PST): The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has posted a distribution list of where affected products were sent. That list includes Wal Mart stores nationwide, Winn-Dixie stores in Florida, and a variety of retailers in Michigan.
At least 24 people in 15 states have fallen ill with E. coli O121 in an outbreak traced back to Farm Rich brand frozen pizzas, quesadillas, philly cheese steaks and mozzarella bites, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed, following initial reports Thursday evening. Seven people have been hospitalized in connection to the products, which were sold nationwide. One patient has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome…
When Capitalism trumps Democracy:
- Sequester may lead to less safe food, FDA Commissioner says: Fewer food safety inspections and an increased risk to consumers will result from the lack of a new 2013 budget from Congress and the upcoming across-the-board spending cuts, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Thursday. The cuts are scheduled to take effect Friday unless the White House and Congress can come to a budget agreement. The reduced inspections and budget cuts could delay a new food safety law which requires the agency to boost inspections and directs farms and food facilities to ensure their food is safe. The FDA has said the so-called sequestration cuts will mean 2,100 fewer food safety inspections this year, though Hamburg said in an interview with The Associated Press that the number is an estimate. She said most of the effects wouldn’t be felt for a while, and the agency won’t have to furlough workers.
- How ALEC Has Undermined Food Safety By Pushing ‘Ag Gag’ Laws Across The Country: Two more states are considering bills that would prevent whistleblowers from exposing cruel or unsafe practices in factory farms, joining five other states with similar “ag gag” bills. [...] it turns out the real basis for the bills has its origins in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank that has been behind such legislative pushes as “stand your ground” gun laws, voter ID laws and laws mandating states teach climate change denial in schools. Several of the lawmakers who are pushing ag gag laws have agriculture industry ties and ties to ALEC — nearly one in four Iowa lawmakers who voted for Iowa’s ag gag law, for example, are members of ALEC. In 2002, ALEC introduced a piece of mock legislation titled the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, which labels people who interfere with any animal operations “terrorists” and made it illegal for anyone to enter “an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means with the intent to commit criminal activities or defame the facility or its owner.” ALEC began pushing the legislation in 2004, and several of the bills currently being considered borrow language from AETA — Indiana’s bill aims to keep farming operations “free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons,” for instance.
- Food Safety Modernization Act Testing Requirement Axed: At the very beginning of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its proposals for the most important food safety regulations in a generation. The proposed rule on “Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls For Human Food,” lays out the procedures that food manufacturers — cookie factories, grocery warehouses, frozen foods packagers — would need to implement in order to reduce the risk that their products would harbor pathogens. The proposal grew out of the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed exactly two years earlier, and it aimed to prevent one million illnesses a year. One strange quirk of the proposed rule, though, is that it doesn’t require facilities to conduct microbiological testing to confirm that their food safety programs are working. It says that manufacturers can swab surfaces or test samples of finished goods for microbes if they like, but it puts them under no obligation to do so. [... The FDA] is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 15, so if you want them to require food manufacturers to test their facilities and products for pathogens, speak up soon.