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E. Coli Outbreaks Spur Calls for New Safety Measures

Food Safety
Recent news developments have prompted several articles and opinion items on food safety issues, here is a sampling,
- €œE. Coli Fears Inspire a Call for Oversight <> .€  The New York Times.  Marian Burros.  December 9. €œFacing a loss of consumer confidence in fresh fruits and vegetables because of repeated outbreaks of food-borne illness, three major produce industry groups have for the first time called for government regulation in an industry that until now has had none.
€œOne of the groups, Western Growers, says it has gone further, meeting over the past six weeks with state officials in California to draw up an agreement that would call for a formal system of farm inspections, regulations of water and soil quality and sanitation and even cease-and-desist orders for violations.€

- €œSickened by Fresh Produce <> .€ The New York Times editorial board.  December 9.  €œThe expanding outbreak of E. coli poisonings in New York, New Jersey and several other states underscores the need for more rigorous regulation of the whole supply chain for fresh produce, from the growing fields to the customer. It is outrageous that fresh vegetables, typically deemed a vital component of a healthy diet, have become a menace because of contamination in their handling.€

- €œOutbreaks Reveal Food Safety Net's Holes <> .€ The Washington Post.  Annys Shin.  December 11.  €œThe patchwork of federal and state regulations that is supposed to ensure food safety has become less effective as the nation's produce supply has grown increasingly industrial. Three months after the spinach scare, there is no agreement on what should be done to reduce health risks from the nation's fruits and vegetables even as each episode of illness has heightened a sense of urgency.
€œThe number of produce-related outbreaks of food-borne illness has increased from about 40 in 1999 to 86 in 2004, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Americans are now more likely to get sick from eating contaminated produce than from any other food item, the center said.€

- €œStronger Rules on Produce Likely After Outbreaks of E.Coli <> .€ The New York Times.  Andrew Martin.  December 11.  €œThe problems are so acute that the produce industry, long wary of regulation but stung more recently by a decline in sales, is now asking for more government oversight. And some Democratic members of Congress who have long agitated for food safety reforms say they will seek oversight hearings, additional money and new legislation on food safety when they assume control in January.
€œÃ‚€˜The food safety process is collapsing,€™ said Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who has repeatedly called for merging the food safety functions of the F.D.A. and the Department of Agriculture into one agency.€

- €œHas Politics Contaminated the Food Supply? <> €  The New York Times (Op-Ed).  Eric Schlosser.  December 11.  €œThis fall has brought plenty of bad news about food poisoning. More than 200 people in 26 states were sickened and three people were killed by spinach contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. At least 183 people in 21 states got salmonella from tainted tomatoes served at restaurants. And more than 160 people in New York, New Jersey and other states were sickened with E. coli after eating at Taco Bell restaurants.€
€œPart of the problem is that the government€™s food-safety system is underfinanced, poorly organized and more concerned with serving private interests than with protecting public health. It is time for the new Democratic Congress to reverse a decades-long weakening of regulations and face up to the food-safety threats of the 21st century.€

- €œSkepticism greets poultry report <,0,4085199.story> .€ Los Angeles Times.  December 11.  €œEighty-three percent of chicken sold in U.S. grocery stores may contain bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses, 34 percentage points higher than the rate it found three years ago, a consumer group said Monday.
€œCritics, however, said the study by Consumer Reports suffered from flaws that included an unreliably small number of samples. A U.S. Agriculture Department spokesman called the report €˜junk science.€™Ã‚€
-Keith Good