19 Mar 2008

Dirty Food

Who cares about clean food? Probably not the FDA:
Twenty serious outbreaks of E. coli have been traced to fresh lettuce or spinach since 1995. One of the most troublesome was a 2006 outbreak in bagged spinach processed by California-based Natural Selection Foods that sickened more than 200 people and was linked to three deaths.

The FDA acknowledged gaps in its food safety efforts after that episode. But the report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says the problems were worse: It showed that spinach facilities were inspected about once every 2.4 years despite federal guidelines that say most should have been visited at least annually.
Bottom Line: If big businesses can avoid responsibility for food by deferring to the FDA, and the FDA can avoid responsibility for food through incompetence, then we need our retail food sellers to monitor the food. Ironically, WalMart and others are looking out for us, but it's not a bad idea to meet your local farmers and wash your veggies!

In a related story, we learn that solid waste from sewage is not a good thing to out on fields:
...according to test results provided to the AP, the level of thallium - an element once used as rat poison - found in the milk was 120 times the concentration allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The contaminated milk and the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo raise new doubts about a 30-year government policy that encourages farmers to spread millions of tons of sewage sludge over thousands of acres each year as an alternative to commercial fertilizers.

The program is still in effect.

Alaimo ordered the government to compensate dairy farmer Andy McElmurray because 1,730 acres he wanted to plant in corn and cotton to feed his herd was poisoned. The sludge contained levels of arsenic, toxic heavy metals and PCBs two to 2,500 times federal health standards.

Also, data endorsed by Agriculture and EPA officials about toxic heavy metals found in the free sludge provided by Augusta's sewage treatment plant was "unreliable, incomplete, and in some cases, fudged," Alaimo wrote.
Bottom Line: Shit (and worse) has to go somewhere, and if it not cleaned up, it ends up in our food.

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