Oct 6, 2009
Leafy greens top food safety watchdog's risky list
The food safety watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today released a report on the 10 riskiest foods regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Drawn from the CSPI's database of outbreaks confirmed by the official postings between 1990 and 2006, the list includes leafy greens, eggs, tuna, oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts, and berries. At a media briefing today, Carolyn Smith DeWaal, CSPI's food safety program director, said tuna and oysters made the list, even though producers are required to have "hazard analysis and critical control point" (HACCP) plans. She said the findings of the study add urgency to the passage of a key food safety bill, which passed the US House of Representatives but awaits action in the Senate. She said HACCP plans don't work unless they're enforced. Peter Hurley, the father of a young Oregon boy who was sickened in a recent peanut butter Salmonella outbreak, said 50 victims of foodborne illnesses and their families will gather in Washington, DC, on Oct 10 to meet with legislators and ask them to forward the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Oct 6 CSPI press release
CSPI report on 10 riskiest foods regulated by the FDA
News investigation finds safety gaps in ground beef production
Despite several Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to ground beef over the past few years, the product is still vulnerable to contamination, because packers grind meat from different sources into their hamburger but aren't required to test the samples for E coli, the New York Times reported on Oct 4. The Times traced the burger eaten by a Minnesota woman who was sickened by contaminated ground beef in the fall of 2007 but is still recovering. The investigation also found that big companies, to avoid the possibility of recalls, sometimes agree to sell only to companies that won't test their products. The probe also found that the company didn't follow its own safety rules. In response to the story, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release yesterday that the events in the story are "unacceptable and tragic" and that the nation needs to do more to protect Americans. He said the USDA has been active in its contributions to President
Obama's Food Safety Working Group, which has launched several measures to make ground beef safer, such as requiring inspectors to test additional trim components that go into ground beef. He said the USDA is also exploring ways to enhance traceback methods.
Oct 4 New York Times story
Oct 5 USDA press release