Posts Tagged: salmonella

See your fridge differently with help of FDA food recall database

Eddie Gehman Kohan writes on Obama Foodorama (try reading “foodorama” ten times to yourself) about the Food & Drug Adminstration’s latest initiative to open up the food recall process to citizens.  The FDA database may not be blessed with the catchiest name (“Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts”), but it might end up saving your health, time, and money.  It allows you to search by food item, by infection or illness that a contaminated or otherwise dangerous food product can cause, and by store.  My searches using terms like “salmonella”, “broccoli”, “sam’s club”, “ham”, “hillandale” and “wegmans” all turned up relatively recent product recalls, with specifics gleaned from company press releases.   The database might not reach out and stop you from buying something that could make you sick, but it’s a good way to check your fridge and shelves at home if you’ve heard rumors about a recall.

Another reason to diet: Feds investigate Illinois sandwich chain

The Centers for Disease Control has started to take control of a salmonella outbreak that primarily happened in Illinois, reports Chris Freeman of the Northwest Herald in McHenry County, Illinois.

The outbreak is tied to alfalfa sprouts served at the Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois.  (more…)

When journalists make it harder to understand government

William Neuman’s (or his editor’s) effort in the New York Times to explain a very important issue — food poisoning — left me scratching my head.  Here’s the lede:

The federal government on Wednesday significantly cut its estimate of how many Americans get sick every year from tainted food.

But that does not mean that food poisoning is declining or that farms and factories are producing safer food. Instead, officials said, the government’s researchers are just getting better at calculating how much foodborne illness is out there.

According to new government estimates, three thousand Americans die every year from food poisoning, and 48 million get sick.  That’s the story, right?  Or do methodologies and research priorities interest America’s “paper of record” more?  (They’re certainly not what most Americans have time to pay attention to). (more…)

Charles Peters: Regulators have egg on their faces

Even when there is an adequate number of inspectors at a government agency, they are conditioned not to make trouble for the inspected. When the Department of Agriculture inspected Wright County Egg in Iowa, later found to be a major source of salmonella, they discovered, according to the Wall Street Journal, “[d]rain clogged, full of shells,” “bugs everywhere,” “cooler floor was dirty, lots of trash,” and “the dry storage area had lots of trash, cartons on the floor everywhere.” These reports came from inspections that occurred from April 1 through August 17 of this year. But the DOA failed to tell the FDA, which is responsible for egg safety, about these problems. The salmonella outbreak occurred a few weeks later. Why didn’t the DOA say anything? “The conditions at the egg plant packing facility were routine.” In other words, the plant has always been a mess, so why speak up now?

Reprinted from The Washington Monthly by permission

You too can get sick for just pennies a day

The trade off between safer eggs and the risk of a deadly salmonella outbreak is just pennies a dozen, according to a in-depth look at the industry by P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times.

Slightly stricter guidelines in California have helped egg producers avoid bacterial contamination in recent years, but in an industry where the bottom line reigns supreme, tighter rules have caught on in only nine of the 50 states. (more…)

Post-salmonella, FDA starts inspecting egg factories

Disturbing fact unearthed by William Neuman of the New York Times:  the miserable, filthy conditions at the Iowa egg farms that were the source of salmonella bacteria were investigated for the first time after the salmonella was discovered.  New rules for inspecting egg farms were written “well before the current outbreak, but went into effect only last month.”  It appears that the FDA only got around to inspecting these plants after they were already too far gone.

FDA steps in again to stop salmonella

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered a recall of California-grown alfalfa sprouts linked to a new outbreak of salmonella. According to April Fulton of National Public Radio, the sprouts have left 22 people sick in 10 states. (more…)

U.S. Senate Hasn’t Got Around To Caring About Salmonella

The Food and Drug Administration claims that the company Basic Food Flavors has knowingly sold vegetable protein laced with salmonella. The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton reports that a food maker who purchased products from Basic Food Flavors tipped off the FDA and the agency subsequently inspected the Food Flavors plant. But why did federal regulators wait until after the dangerous vegetable protein was discovered to inspect the offending plant?

Well, because of the U.S. Senate. “Legislation that would require companies to take measures to prevent contamination was overwhelmingly passed by the House last year,” Layton writes,  “but has been held up in the Senate.” (more…)


Jane Zhang of the Wall Street Journal reports on the Obama administration’s plan to improve food safety:

A White House panel, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, is shifting the focus of food regulation to preventing outbreaks from reacting to them after they occur. The federal government will establish a command system to respond to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses and develop industry guidelines that will help the government track contaminated products, the panel said.

What the panel specifically has in mind, for now, is empowering the Food and Drug Administration to reduce salmonella contamination in raw or uncooked eggs by 60 percent or 79,000 cases each year. Egg producers will now be required to test for salmonella.

It will be interesting to see how far Obama will push for a better-inspected food supply before the food industry starts, ahem, crying foul. Right now the reputation of the FDA is at such a low that the industry is actually calling out for stronger regulations in order to boost consumer confidence.-MB