After nearly four years of intensive blogging, there are many things I still don’t understand. Perhaps you, my readers, can help me find answers to some of these questions.

Why does USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) consider E. coli O157:H7 and six other E. coli serotypes to be adulterants in raw beef, while turning a blind eye to other pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia enterocolitica, and even other pathogenic or toxic E. coli?

Why is FDA unable (or unwilling) to release retail distribution information on food safety recalls – even those definitively linked to deadly outbreaks – while FSIS routinely releases retail distribution information on all such recalls?

Why does FDA not allow interstate shipment of raw milk for human consumption, as long as the raw milk meets the same microbiological standards as pasteurized milk?

Why does the burden of demonstrating the safety (or hazard) of imported food products and ingredients rest on FDA’s shoulders – and bank account – rather than on the shoulders of the offshore producers and the importers?

Why are there no federal criminal penalties imposed on food producers and processors who knowingly supply contaminated food?

Why does FDA make it so difficult for consumers to notify the agency about food, drug, medical device and pet food safety problems?

Why is it impossible to request information from FDA under the Freedom of Information Act on-line?

Why does the USA need two major federal food safety agencies with overlapping responsibilities?

Why, with so much money, time and effort spent on food safety enforcement in the developed world, do countries such as the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom and France continue to experience high annual rates of food poisoning and foodborne diseases?

Finally, why must consumers continue to rely on non-government sites such as eFoodAlert, barfblog, Food Safety News, and Le blog d’Albert Amgar (in France) for timely information of foodborne disease outbreaks, food recalls and other food safety issues?

5 thoughts on “Why?

  1. The simple answer to your questions is that these agencies do not want to create a panic they can not control. On top of that, they have been promoting a hundred year old myth that only E. coli that shows some activity at 112.1°F is from human fecal material and the only strains of sanitary significance. Never mind the fact that optimum growth temperature for most pathogens is 98.6°F or lower. I believe that is one of the reasons the agencies use Celsius temperature. Sound much better as this example from FDA shows, “Fecal coliform analyses are done at 45.5°C for food testing, except for water, shellfish and shellfish harvest water analyses, which use 44.5°C (1, 3, 30). The fecal coliform group consists mostly of E. coli but some other enterics such as Klebsiella can also ferment lactose at these temperatures and therefore, be considered as fecal coliforms.”

    The problem is that FDA misses Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia enterocolitica, and even other pathogenic or toxic E. coli as well as most of the Enterobacteriacae familly, that do not grow at the thermotolerant temperature as well as other gram negative and gram positive bacteria as well as cocci.

    The primary problem is that EPA, FDA and USDA created a national policy in 1981 to use pathogen contaminated sewage sludge on fruits and vegetables as well as grazing land using the thermotolerant test for E. coli as proof sludge was safe. As a result, our food and water are becoming more contaminated every day and we have created a perfect storm of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

    Until the agencies start working off legitimate science, our health will continue to be in jeopardy and you will not get any answer form the agencies. Please see.
    Jim Bynum, vp
    Help for Sewage Victims


  2. As Susan suggests, it is the special interest groups, the powerful lobbyists, and the government’s reliance on maintaining the economic interests of industry over the safety of the American public.

    A second reason is the fragmentation of the various segments of government lack central oversight and communication.

    The third, and perhaps the most disheartening reason is, that the various segments responsible for oversight are woefully understaffed and underfunded.

    Fourth, the dangerous precedent set by Del Monte will color any future actions the government is likely to consider.

    Will the new food safety laws ever be meaningful? Not likely, if the Republicans have anything to do with it.

    Of course this is a dramatic over simplification to a complex problem, one which even with the passing of new laws may turn out to be an act of futility and wishful thinking.

    Allot more people and animals will have to die before the Senate wakes up. And then, maybe they won’t. I don’t have much hope.


  3. Part of your answers can be found in: Peters, Charles and Michael Nelson (Editors) 1979 The Culture of Bureaucracy, Holt, Rinehart and Winston – ISBN 0-03-044216-8 – a really good read. It was published in the USA.


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