How’s Your Lettuce?

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Romaine Lettuce (public domain, ARS USDA)

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.

Letter From The Editor: Romaine, Reform and Revive
Food Safety News, April 28, 2018 by Dan Flynn

This is a very interesting editorial, well worth your time.

It’s Not Only About Healthcare!

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.

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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).

 

CDC estimates that each year roughly 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The 2011 estimates provide the most accurate picture of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, microbes (“pathogens”) are causing the most illnesses in the United States. According to the 2011 estimates, the most common foodborne illnesses are caused by norovirus and by the bacteria Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. Source: CDC Website

The state and local health departments are the front line protecting Americans from foodborne illness to Zika virus infections. Their budgets need to be greatly increased, not decreased.