Publisher’s Platform: President Obama, Tell Your Kids Not To Eat Their Fruits and Veggies After August 1st!
Food safety program started by Bush to be killed by Obama at end of July
Food Safety News
Sign Change.org Petition to Save the Program.
President Obama, you probably do not remember my three daughters: Morgan, Olivia and Sydney, hanging out with Sasha and Malia and Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers backstage before one of the inaugural parties, but $50,000 out of my pocket does. As you might remember, I went all in for your 2008 campaign, and judging by the calls and emails that I get on a daily basis from your campaign, you want me to do it again.
Within a few months of taking office, you came face to face with what I have seen for decades – another multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. The now infamous Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella tragedy sickened several hundred throughout the United States and killed nine. I thought you got it when you were quoted as saying:
“That’s what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week. And you know, I don’t wanna have to worry about whether she’s gonna get sick as a consequence to having her lunch.”
True, that outbreak – and several others in proceeding years – prompted Congressional action on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – that you very, very quietly signed into law. However, the law still remains unfunded and many of the food safety rules remain hidden away in the your White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
And, now because of industry pressure, your administration wants to kill the $4.5M budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program (MDP). Ironically, to this long-time democratic supporter, the program was launched under President Bush’s 2001 Food Safety Initiative, and until the end of July tested about 15,000 samples of fruits and vegetables each year, far more than any other federal or state program.
Here is how MDP works: Public health officials pull samples of tomatoes (cherry, round, roma), cantaloupe, lettuce (leaf, romaine, cut, and pre-washed), celery, parsley, cilantro, spinach (bunched and bagged and pre-washed), hot peppers, sprouts (alfalfa and clover), onions (bulb and green), and yes, even Sasha’s peanut butter, and test for pathogens that can kill your kids and mine.
The samples are collected from distribution centers in 11 states that represent about 50 percent of the United States population. Any isolated pathogens are sent for pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing and the resulting genetic pattern is uploaded to the Centers for Disease Control PulseNet database so that it can be matched against human isolates or outbreak patterns. MDP also tests all isolates for antimicrobial resistance and contributes data to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring (NARMS) database.
From 2009 to 2012, MDP found Salmonella 100 times, E. coli O157:H7 twice and Listeria monocytogenes 8 times. Over the same time period, the program sparked 23 Salmonella recalls, two E. coli O157:H7 recalls and five Listeria recalls. Of the pathogens the program identified during that time, 39 Salmonella isolates were matched to human illnesses – as were the two E. coli O157:H7 and all eight Listeria isolates.
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