Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Round Up

It’s been a crazy week here at S.T.O.P.--Safe Tables Our Priority!  I have been getting ready to head out to Washington, D.C. with a group of victims and family members who have gotten ill from from FDA-regulated products.  While a lot has been going on here, there has also been plenty going on in the news.  Here’s a sample of what we’ve been hearing about this week in regards to food safety.  As always, you can receive this information as well as times updates on food safety information and recalls delivered right to your e-mail inbox by signing up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts.

Salmonella in granola bars
FDA Recalls informs us of the third granola product to be recalled for salmonella contamination in the past two weeks.

Against the tide, bipartisan legislation emerges on food safety
The Hill takes a look at the United States Congress’ bipartisan efforts to protect our citizens from unsafe foods.

147 Olympic food vendors fail inspections
It’s sad to see that more than 1/3 of the food operators catering to this year’s winter Olympics did not fully meet health regulations.  Not taking proper precautions at an event like the Olympics could have dire consequences for a large number of people.

Local mom pushing for tougher food regulations
This Fox article quotes one of our victims who will be traveling to Washington, D.C. with us next week.  She’s been a great part of our struggles to help strengthen food safety regulations.

Jell-o and mouse poop in a school cafeteria
This nauseating barf blog post tells about two schools in Pennsylvania that failed health inspections after having mouse droppings found in their cafeterias.  With stories like these, it’s hard to trust that our kids are being served safe, healthy food in school.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It’s time to reconsider the broad use of antibiotics in farm animals

Antibiotics are currently used widely and irresponsibly in raising farm animals.  These antibiotics are meant for treating humans and this use in animals entering the food chain breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that make people sick, and are much harder to recover from. We have been aware for quite sometime that this happens.  Fifteen years ago, when Flouroquinolone antibiotics which were meant for human consumption were approved for use in animals, physicians soon started seeing  Campylobacter strains causing human illness that were resistant to Fluoroquinolone treatment. The Food and Drug Administration understands that this is the case, the United States Department of Agriculture is aware of this. The Centers for Disease Control knows this. The World Health Organization knows this, and S.T.O.P. is frightened by this.

Why are antibiotics being misused to treat animals that aren’t necessarily sick?
Animals are now being given antibiotics not only to treat infection, but also to prophylactically resist infection. Or at least that’s what the food-animal production industry would like us to believe. Instead, antibiotics are being given to animals because it decreases the time that it takes some animals to be ready for slaughter. Antibiotics increase growth; this is good for the efficiency of meat production but horrible for human health.

Antibiotics that are given to animals that cause antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are a serious food safety problem. Salmonella and Campylobacter, frequently found in food products of animal origin, can be treated effectively with antibiotics. But when these same antibiotics used to treat sick humans are used to treat healthy animals, they breed resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a huge food safety concern because the uncooked meat that we bring into our homes from the grocery store can easily and accidentally enter the human body. I would like to be able to treat my kitchen as a kitchen rather than a biohazard zone, but bacteria can spread from shopping bags, plastic wrap from the meat packaging, countertops, cutting boards and from direct ingestion of undercooked or cross-contaminated food products.

As it is, it’s hard enough to keep bacteria from making us ill without the worry of antibiotic resistance. Coming down with a foodborne bacterial illness can be horrific enough, but not being able to be effectively treated by an antibiotic is just a senseless abuse of good medicine.  

At S.T.O.P. we have come across several families who have had a loved one infected with a foodborne bacterial illness that can not be treated by antibiotics.  It adds a whole new layer of complexity and frustration to an already negative situation.   We are a part of a coalition that is currently working on upcoming legislation that will address this issue.  To find out more about it and to get timely updates on recalls, outbreaks and food safety news delivered right to your email inbox, sign up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are There Hidden E. coli Bacteria in Your Valentine's Day Dinner?

Imagine the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner…you and your sweetheart surrounded by hearts, flowers, music and romance at the fanciest restaurant in the city.  You’re eating a decadent beef dinner, complete with dessert and wine. It’s the perfect night with the one you love—until you realize you might be paying with your health as well as your money.

Many people have heard of E. coli 0157:H7, and know that it is a very harmful bacteria coming from cattle fecal contamination and that it should be tested for and kept out of food.  What they don’t know is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified six other sister strains of E. coli that have also been associated with foodborne illness and death.  These other strains are NOT labeled as adulterants by the USDA and are NOT a part of their testing program.  They could easily be lurking in your Valentine’s Day meal—or any of your other meals for that matter.

S.T.O.P.—Safe Tables Our Priority has worked with many families that have had loved ones get sick from the six other non-0157 strains of E. coli.  State health departments have been required to report cases of non-O157 strains to the CDC for 10 years, but these strains are still not tested for by the USDA in beef.  For years, S.T.O.P. has been asking USDA to have these non-0157 strains tested for in our nation’s food supply.

When I think of the people I have encountered through S.T.O.P. that have been sickened, or had a family member sickened by these other strains of E. coli, it astounds me that USDA has not started testing for them.  I have met people like S.T.O.P. member Dana Boner who lost her 14-year-old daughter Kayla to E. coli O111 in 2007.  She says that “USDA policy makes it impossible to find. You can’t find what you’re not looking for.  While it’s too late for Kayla, it’s not too late for others.”

This Valentine’s Day, the USDA should give the American public a life-saving gift:  declare other life-threatening strains of E. coli as adulterants in meat.  In the meantime, be mindful of what you eat and make sure your meat is properly cooked and handled before you and your sweetheart share a special Valentine’s Day meal. To receive timely information on food recalls and outbreaks to protect all of your loved ones, sign up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts which are delivered right to your e-mail inbox.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Plenty of talk, not enough action

There has been a lot of food safety news and food safety talk recently, but very little meaningful action has taken place to protect consumers.  Awareness of food safety is important and we appreciate it, but if no action takes place then its value is lost. 

Recently, we wrote about the anniversary of the PCA peanut products outbreak that happened one year ago. Today, we received notice that 120 of the 700 victims who were sickened are receiving a settlement from PCA's insurance company. While nothing will ever take away the suffering these victims went through, this is still good news for them.  But what has really been done to prevent another outbreak like the PCA one from happening tomorrow?  As of right now, not a whole lot. 

S.T.O.P. has been working to help improve FDA reform legislation for the past year. There is a good, pending FDA reform bill in the Senate that needs to be passed NOW.  We are taking another group of victims of foodborne illness to Washington, DC next week to speak with members of Congress about getting the legislation passed.  We’ve gathered families sickened by Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella who contracted these bacteria from everyday foods such as spinach, cantaloupe, orange juice, peanut butter, cookie dough, cheese, and ice cream.

Add your voice to ours by contacting your senator now at and letting him or her know that S. 510, which is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is important to you. To stay informed and better protect your family from contaminated products in the marketplace, sign up for S.T.O.P. E-alerts, which provide timely information on food recalls and outbreaks delivered right to your email inbox.