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Does a New State Food-Safety Team Make Sense?

On February 21, the Denver Post reported that Mike Hauser became the latest casualty of the listeria outbreak that originated from tainted cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado this past year. It’s the deadliest food-borne illness since the 1920s, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This comes after Cargill recalled 36 MILLION pounds of fresh and frozen turkey products in 2011 after one death and 100 people becoming sick, more than half a BILLION eggs being recalled in 2010 after an Iowa egg producer was linked to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning that affected more than 1,000 people, and a salmonella outbreak from Mexican jalapeno and Serrano peppers in 2008 that sickened 1,440 people in 43 states.

These numbers are beyond disturbing, in both the amount of food being affected and the associated financial and human costs. So what do communities and states do?

Well, the Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture: Exploring Ag Security & Food Safety, met on February 23, and the experts have some suggestions. One would be the creation of a rapid-response team comprised of farmers, university scientists, and health workers that would help with an investigation and get to a farm fast after an outbreak. The second is the suggestion that federal and state agencies target high-risk foods where limited money is a concern, which it almost always is. And the third would be to educate the growers, according to Larry Goodbridge, a food-microbiology professor at Colorado State University.

In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requesting $220 million to bolster its food safety budget next year, hoping to increase inspections and implement new guidelines. But Goodbridge says there could never be enough inspections to really make the difference everyone is hoping for.

Even if more money was thrown at the issue, it seems there are numerous conflicts of interest within the industry itself. How do 3rd-party auditors completely miss all of the warning signs at Jensen Farms, for example? What are the repercussions? How do former CEOs and VPs of huge food companies like Monsanto and Cargill get high-level policy-influencing positions at organizations like the FDA and EPA?

The number of multistate food-borne illness outbreaks has more than quadrupled in the past 20 years, according to the Post.  They cite food grown nationally and internationally versus locally.

So rather than put money into more inspections, fast-response teams, and bureaucratic guidelines, why not invest in local food infrastructure? It makes sense any way you cut it, unless of course you’re one of those mega-food companies who virtually own our food supply. An illness here and there that kills a few people and cuts across multiple state lines is just the cost of doing business these days, right?

Until everyday citizens say it isn’t.


Monday, February 27: Occupy Our Food Supply

Fast Facts

  • Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations.
  • Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS.
  • More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto.
  • Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain.
  • And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart.

Source: Huffington Post

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