The Centers for Disease Control has urged consumers to avoid eating Romaine lettuce because of a particularly nasty outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. The warning involves multiple states. An opinion piece from the editor of Food Safety News reminds us:
Once not so long ago, we had a little unit called the Microbiological Data Program (MDP). Run by USDA, the MDP contracted with a dozen state agricultural labs to go out and test fresh produce.
In other words, the MDP sent the state ag labs out during the various harvest seasons to sample and test what’s coming out of the fields. The MDP existed from 2002-2012. It reached a point where it was responsible for 80 percent of the fresh produce testing in the U.S.
The MDP only cost taxpayers about $5 million. The New York Times called it “a tiny program that matters.” But the produce industry hated the MDP, and it apparently had a significant hand in killing it.
The goal of the House Republicans’ repeal of “Obamacare” is to divert money from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to pay for tax cuts for wealthy Americans. The ACA covered not only health insurance provisions but also many other issues related to the health of Americans, especially public health.
Food safety funding has been drastically reduced. John Auerbach, CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, reports: “If the bill eventually becomes law, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will lose 12 percent of its budget, of which a significant portion—$625 million a year—goes directly to state and local health departments.” (Source: House ACA Replacement will Cripple the Nation’s Health, Trust for America’s Health Statement, May 4, 2017).
Last year, melting permafrost in Siberia released a strain of anthrax, which had been sealed in a frozen reindeer carcass, sickening 100 people and killing one child. In July 2015, during the hottest month ever recorded on earth (until the following year), and the hottest day ever recorded in England (until the following summer), the Guardian newspaper had to shut down its live-blogging of the heat wave when the servers overheated.
An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography.
Over the last eight years, food policy has gone from being a topic for industry insiders and wonks, to a regular staple on mainstream America’s menu of interests.
Case in point: A plurality of Americans now believe healthy food should be more affordable, farm subsidies should be used to grow that healthy food, farming should happen in harmony with the environment, and food system workers should be treated—and paid—fairly.
By most any measure, the prospects for advancing a progressive food and agriculture agenda now seem grim. But all is not entirely lost, and some advocates are working to create a national food strategy—a centralized list of federal policies, priorities, and principles to guide our nation’s food system.