Monday, April 23, 2007

Mad on Monday Morning

I had a funny post ready. With a recipe. And a happy ramble on the joys of planting herbs. But I don't get to post those this morning. Because I have to post on this.

If you have seen the front page of most newspapers, then you know that the FDA was aware of the problems that led to the spinach and peanut butter contamination for some time before the outbreaks.

In the case of the Salmonella in the peanut butter, the FDA knew of the issues as early as 2005. When FDA inspectors requested documents from the ConAgra plant, they were refused. The FDA inspector left and the issue was not followed up on.

While the spotlight is being thrown onto the FDA, with reason, there are others who need to be called into question.

"This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the full House committee, as quoted in the Washington Post.

The FDA was given a budget increase of just $10 million, a mere bandaid when you consider they are responsible for nearly 80% of the inspections of our food supply. The USDA was given a budget increase nearly 10 times that amount.

Let's also not forget that ConAgra knew of its problems and sent inspectors away. And did nothing. And the spinach producers knew of the issues, and the outbreaks continued. In fact, 18 outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1995 caused by E. coli involved fresh or fresh-cut lettuce and one concerning fresh-cut spinach. The 19 outbreaks account for over 400 reported cases of illness and two deaths.

So, when you line everyone up to take the blame, don't forget the food producers (ConAgra, others) who allow life-threatening problems to continue and deny them, the FDA that cannot and will not do its job, and the current pro-business administration who will not support the FDA in doing its job. That's a lot of blame. That's a lot of anger for a Monday morning.

Beyond blaming, what can we do? Because blaming does not solve the issue of getting dinner on the table tonight. As consumers we need to decrease our reliance on processed foods and mass-scale agriculture. We need to Eat Local, to buy food from people we know and trust, who feed their own families the same produce and meats that they sell to us. And, we need to tell our government that we are mad, that we do not support them. And tell companies who sell us tainted product, knowingly, that we don't care to buy their products. Any of them. And there are many.

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