Subj: Industry, Government Join E. Coli Fight (Its time for a laugh)
Date: 1/1/2007 3:57:06 PM Central Standard Time
Think about this. Government agencies have spent over 25 years promoting the use of sewage sludge and
sewage effluent as the perfect fertilizer for food crops. Seven years after food contamination cases
reached 6.3 million cases a month (1999) these agencies and the states are now going to develop new food
safety rules for farmers, especially if composted manure is used. These agencies have spent the last 25
years trying to use abused science to over rule common sense. Common sense lost. How do you figure
that an RCRA solid waste loaded with pathogenic disease organisms is more safely disposed of on food
crops and home lawns, than it is disposed of in a sanitary landfill. The reasoning seems to be that the
country is running out of landfill space, therefore, the logical place for disposal is on agricultural land.
Never mind that the federal government administers 261 million acres of land where sludge/biosolids can
not be recycled as a fertilizer. Wouldn't it be funny if you really could spread disease organisms and other
pollutants all around the environment and that would protect our children?
Industry, Government Join E. Coli Fight
By LINDA A. JOHNSON
TRENTON, N.J. (Jan. 1) - In light of food poisoning outbreaks involving spinach and lettuce, the government and the
produce industry are scrambling to make leafy greens safer before the spring planting season.
New guidelines from the industry are due in April on how to prevent contamination throughout the food
chain, from before greens are planted until they reach the dinner table.
Members of Congress are asking federal agencies to report on what went wrong and how to fix the
problem. Some lawmakers want to replace the patchwork system of federal food regulation with a single agency in
charge of what people eat.
States are active, too. In California, where most of the nation's green leafy vegetables are grown, farmers are poised to
approve new labeling by March for farms that follow stricter practices for raising greens.
In New Jersey, where small family farms were hurt by a nationwide spinach ban right at the start of
September's harvest, the state has set up a task force to improve produce safety.
"This whole issue has gathered significant momentum in light of the recent outbreaks," said Dr. David
Acheson, chief medical officer for food safety at the Food and Drug Administration.
The spinach outbreak killed three people and sickened more than 200. An E. coli outbreak linked to lettuce sickened
dozens of people who ate at East Coast Taco Bell outlets and Midwest Taco John's restaurants in November and
Two salmonella outbreaks blamed on tomatoes made about 400 people sick in October and November.
The number of foodborne illness outbreaks generally has declined over the past decade. Still, greens are especially
vulnerable to outbreaks because they tend to be eaten raw - proper cooking kills E. coli and other bugs - and grow
close to soil, which may hold manure-based fertilizer that can contaminate the produce.
Many states probably will attempt improvements before the spring planting season, said Bob Ehart,
spokesman for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
"The states that we've had conversations with are all very concerned about the issue and are looking at it,"
Since September, two produce industry groups that together represent thousands of U.S. growers, processors,
distributors, restaurants and supermarkets have worked to hasten revised guidelines for preventing contamination of
The goal is to tell farmers, before spring planting, and then consumers about the new safety guidelines.
"I think we have to show the consuming public as well as government officials that we can manage this," said Bryan
Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association.
Jim Gorny, head of food safety at the other group, the United Fresh Produce Association, said irrigation
water is a focus.
"What industry's doing now is a very deep soul-searching in making sure no risk is left unchecked," he said.
The industry is pushing for voluntary changes and not more government regulation, Gorny said.
Since the spinach outbreak in September, lawmakers in Congress have pushed to put one agency in charge of food
safety, require regular inspection of processing plants and give the government authority to do food recalls.
Joe Shoemaker, a spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said "chances just got better" because there is broad support
for these measures among Democrats who will take control of Congress this month.
The FDA started work on new safety recommendations in 2004 and has come up with voluntary guidelines for the
vegetables that cause more than 80 percent of outbreaks from produce. They are lettuce and leafy greens, tomatoes,
green onions, herbs and cantaloupes.
As outbreaks have continued, the agency has looked for more ways to prevent them and respond more
quickly. But that effort has been slowed while agency staff was diverted to handle the latest outbreaks.
"Obviously, up to this point things have not worked as well as they should have," Acheson said.
Consumer groups say things have not worked well because of inadequate money and staffing at FDA.
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, said putting one agency in charge of food
safety would be a big improvement.
"It's regulatory chaos" now, Kimbrell said.
The Bush administration opposes the idea, saying it is unnecessary.