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36 million pounds of proof that our food safety system is broken

If Cargill's 36 million pounds of antibiotic-resistant-salmonella-tainted turkey that sickened 77 people and killed one (at last count) proves anything, it's this: The government's approach to regulating disease-causing pathogens like salmonella and E. coli in food the same way it regulates plaster, chalk, or even melamine simply doesn't work. According to the USDA and FDA, stuff added to food that makes it dangerous to eat is an "adulterant." And adulterants in food are illegal. So far, so good. But it turns out that at USDA, it's not enough that meat has something in it that shouldn't be there. It has …

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Why the meat industry sells salmonella

Cargill served up 36 million tons of tough turkeyCross-posted from Food Safety News. As a lawyer who writes about food policy, one of my biggest frustrations is how reporters often get the law wrong, or omit critical pieces of information. Last week, the latest massive food safety recall hit the news -- 36 million pounds of ground turkey possibly tainted with salmonella, courtesy of meat giant Cargill. While some media outlets were asking good questions about why it took the federal government so long to release such vital information (problems began in March), others reported that it's currently legal to …

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Would the FDA let raw milk politics influence its food safety alerts?

This past weekend, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a press release stating it had epidemiological evidence connecting three illnesses from campylobacter to raw milk distributed in North Carolina. Possibly five other people might have been affected, the release stated. The consumers obtained the milk via a private food club that arranged delivery of the milk from South Carolina, where raw milk can be legally sold, to North Carolina, where it can't. A couple things were notable about the press release. First, it was issued on a Saturday, which isn't normally an FDA workday. That suggested it …

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Who really benefits from the egg industry deal?

Battery cages, an industry standard, prevent hens from fully extending their wings.Photo: Farm Sanctuary Cross-posted from Food Safety News. Last week, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) held an unusual press conference. The group announced an agreement with its long-time adversary, the United Egg Producers (UEP), to jointly seek federal legislation that would improve the housing conditions of egg-laying hens. As a result, HSUS is calling off its recent efforts to get ballot measures passed in Oregon and Washington State on the issue. Those initiatives would have prohibited cages so confining that egg-laying hens could not fully extend …

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Going rogue: USDA may have just opened the GMO floodgates

Did the USDA just go rogue and open the floodgates to unlimited, unregulated planting of new genetically engineered crops? According to Tom Philpott at Mother Jones, it sure looks that way. And it may all be thanks to a new breed of Kentucky bluegrass that's been modified by the Scotts Corporation to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. This happened because of the patchwork system the USDA and Congress erected to regulate GMOs. Believe it or not, the USDA regulates GMO crops as either "plant pests" -- because most GMOs contain genes from viruses and other organisms considered plant pests …

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Whew: FDA confirms E. Coli in food is illegal

E. coli-infected lettuce. Photo: agrilifetodayFood safety advocate and lawyer Bill Marler has served as one of the most persistent voices covering the deadly German E. coli outbreak and warning that the same thing could happen in the U.S. One of his concerns about our vulnerability comes from the fact that the FDA has been cagey in the past about exactly which of the many disease-causing strains of E. coli are considered illegal in food. He was therefore reassured when Donald Kraemer, deputy director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and a top FDA food safety official, …

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GOP votes against food safety — again

The House Republicans' war on food safety continues. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the House recently voted to kill the USDA's Microbiological Data Program (MDP), a 10-year-old program that tests produce for a wide variety of pathogens, including the strain of E. coli that caused the deadly outbreak in Germany. Every year, the MDP screens around 15,000 samples of produce the agency considers particularly vulnerable to contamination, such as sprouts, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and cilantro, for pathogens, including salmonella and multiple strains of E. coli. If anything is found, the information is passed on to the FDA, which …

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Don't ban raw milk because of the E. coli outbreak

CNN is milking the raw dairy angle for all it's worth. As someone who follows closely the relentless campaign by the nation's medical and public health establishments against raw milk, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the European food-borne illness disaster. The "other shoe" is for some scientist or government public health official to seek to link the European tragedy to the battle here over raw milk. Sound crazy? I'd say. Verge on the paranoid? Definitely. After all, among all the culprits publicly linked to the tragedy -- cucumbers, tomatoes, and, most recently, sprouts -- dairy …

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Poison apples bad for consumers, Snow White

EWG: Don't resist the temptation to eat apples -- just buy organic when you can. Photo: D. Sharon PruittCross-posted from Mother Jones. Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) sifts through USDA testing data and figures out which "Dirty Dozen" fruits and veggies deliver the largest doses and the widest variety of pesticides. This year's winner, announced Monday: apples. According to EWG, 92 percent of the apples tested by the USDA carried two or more pesticide residues. And even as supermarket shelves feature a pretty narrow range of apple varieties -- Red Delicious, Granny Smith, etc. -- farmers are spraying …

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The ‘Dirty Dozen': Which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticides?

The Environmental Working Group has released an updated list of the Dirty Dozen, the fruits and vegetables with the worst pesticide levels. Drumroll please: Apples Celery Strawberries Peaches Spinach Nectarines (imported) Grapes (imported) Sweet bell peppers Potatoes Blueberries (domestic) Lettuce Kale/collard greens If you can, it's worth shelling out a little extra for the organic versions of these. You can offset it by pinching your pennies on the Clean Fifteen, the produce with the lowest pesticide levels: Onions Sweet Corn Pineapples Avocado Asparagus Sweet peas Mangoes Eggplant Cantaloupe (domestic) Kiwi Cabbage Watermelon Sweet potatoes Grapefruit Mushrooms