Thursday, March 13, 2008

Put That Spinach Down. It Could Kill You.

Don't touch that spinach. No matter what your mother told you. And don't eat the lettuce either. According to this Washington Post article, the FDA inspects even the most problematic facilities once every 2.4 years rather than annually as their own guidelines recommend.

Remember the food poisoning outbreak in 2006 when 200 people were sickened by tainted California spinach or lettuce and three died? I sure do. And get this, the company that grew this spinach is called Mission Organics. It was a facility managed by Natural Selections, a corporation that sells produce to upscale supermarkets, like Fresh Fields, which specialize in organic and other supposedly pure foods. Here's how the Post report described the problem.
Since 2001, nearly half of all federal inspections of facilities that package fresh spinach revealed serious sanitary problems, but the Food and Drug Administration did not take "meaningful" enforcement action, a House committee report released yesterday found.

The most common problems uncovered by FDA inspections of 67 facilities included inadequate restroom sanitation, litter piles and indoor condensation posing a risk of food contamination by microorganisms. Inspectors also found buildings vulnerable to rodent infestation and workers with uncovered hair and poor hygiene.

Twenty serious outbreaks of E. coli have been traced to fresh lettuce or spinach since 1995. One of the most troublesome was a 2006 outbreak in bagged spinach processed by California-based Natural Selection Foods that sickened more than 200 people and was linked to three deaths.

The FDA acknowledged gaps in its food safety efforts after that episode. But the report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says the problems were worse: It showed that spinach facilities were inspected about once every 2.4 years despite federal guidelines that say most should have been visited at least annually.
Congress is now finally investigating the FDA lapses.

But let's face it, the reason for the laxity can be laid right at the feet of the last Congress, run by Republicans. When Newt Gingrich rode the anti-regulatory and anti tax fervor into Congress back in 1994, the FDA, and every other regulatory agency, was targeted for being obstructionist and anti-business. The Republicans waged war on prudent oversight and sensible regulation intended to protect consumers from food borne disease. Funding for federal agencies such as the FDA and USDA were gutted while politicians whipped up anti-government feeling to make it seem as if the government was obstructing legitimate business interests. They left regulation to self-reporting and the honor system.

Yeah, it was the fox guarding the hen house. But what a lucrative hen house it was. Because while the Republican Congress made war on federal agencies and blocked them from doing their job of protecting American children from eating tainted lettuce and spinach, they were lining their pockets and those of their lobbyist friends at the K Street Project.

Glad they are gone. Now let's get the funding and manpower back to the FDA and to all the other federal agencies charged with protecting the American consumer, so they can do their job of guarding us all from domestic food poisoning, unsafe imports from China, and hazardous toys.

After all, what good is it protecting us from a terrorist attack if our lettuce can kill us?


silence dogood said...

My mom would appreciate it if you'd remind your readers that running with scissors is still a no-no, however.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Running with Scissors is also a memoir by Augusten Burroughs and a movie starring Joseph Cross and Annette Benning.

But maybe it's best not to go there. Much of that story is a no no too :)

Hank Bostwick said...

Your blog roll contains links to blogs of an incendiary nature that are offensive to genuine progressives, liberals and loyal Democrats.

The first, Isophorone, links a particularly disgusting blog titled "Jews Against Obama."

The second, Not Larry Sabato, is a race-baiting schismatic whose vitriol should have no place in our primary discourse.

Not Larry is this week's recipient of the Schizzy. For information about this auspicious award, follow the link below.

We challenge you to denounce and reject the race-baiting, slash-and-burn tactics of progressive-posers like Not Larry.

Progressives Unite For a November Victory.

Democrats '08

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Hank, I'm not sure what this has to do with the FDA's failure to regulate the food industry, which has led to Americans getting a record number of food borne illnesses.

But if you look at my blogroll, I list a diversity of sites. I disagree with many of their opinions and points of view, as they do with mine.

However, I am very proud to have all of them gracing my blogroll because I value freedom of expression. And I read everybody listed there because I believe getting a diversity of opinion is important.

Tolerance and respect for different opinions and commitment to free speech are the hallmark of liberal and progressive values.

I know conservatives who would say the same thing.

On somethings, we are just not that far apart. Liberty and free speech are American values.

Hank Bostwick said...

Unfortunately, Anonymous, hiding behind constitutional platitudes simply gives cover to those insidious voices which promote hate and, as a possible consequence, violence against minorities and the "other."

How one can justify linking to a site which links to a site entitled "Jews Against Obama" is beyond me. This is particularly perplexing when everything else about this site screams, "Hey, look at me, I'm a liberal." Do the candidates you endorse or post about condone the fact that you give a stage to the likes of Isophorone and "Jews Against Obama"? There is free-speech, and then there is responsible speech. Your commitment to the Progressive Movement is undermined by your association with the sites above. You (and anyone else, like Not Larry) are free to hate Senator Obama or give voice to those who do.

However, know that thoughtful progressives are mobilizing to counter the invectives and vitriol proffered by race-baiters like Not Larry whenever they attempt to use race, gender, class or sexual orientation to smear our honorable Democratic candidates.

To use the words of your recent flavor of the month, "shame on you, Anonymous and Not Larry" for insinuating that Senator Obama is a stalker of white women, a drug abuser with a arabic-derived surname, and for presenting images which juxtapose another Democratic candidate with images of the Confederate flag.

An objective observer of bloggers like Not Larry (and those who support him) can come to one of two conclusions:

1. Given the fact that apparently Not Larry has been blogging and been involved in politics for quite some time, it is likely that Not Larry is savvy enough to know exactly what the message behind his words and images are meant to convey; or,

2. Not Larry is one of the most ignorant writers in the blogosphere (which may be worse than #1)

Democrats '08

Silence Dogood said...

God, Primaries really make me hate Democrats sometimes.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...


I am going to answer you one more time to give you the benefit of the doubt. But commenters who hijack a site to promote an agenda not related to the original post are usually known in the blogosphere as trolls. You appear to be the first troll I've had.

Lots of commenters have disagreed with me and I actually enjoy their comments because reasoned debate makes a site more interesting.

The only comments I've ever deleted are genuine spam and I usually explain what it is and why I deleted it immediately. I never delete commenters for expressing a different opinion.

The only other comment I've ever deleted, other than spam, was, in fact, an actual racist comment about Obama. Fortunately, I've only had one of those but I wouldn't hesitate to hit the delete button if I got another.

Having said that, you came to my site because I wrote a post demanding that Geraldine Ferraro step down. I wouldn't hesitate to do that again. So, I'm not much worried about being called a racist. My actions and words speak for themselves.

I also have known Ben Tribett, the blogger known as NLS, since he was a teenager. He is not nor has he ever been a racist. A merry pranskster and inflammatory bomb thrower, probably. A bigot never.

Furthermore, I do know the difference between editorial responsibility and censorship. I take responsibility for what I say and for those whose sites I choose to list.

Believe it or not, I also know the difference between censorship and editorial responsibility. I'm pretty tolerant but, yes, there are sites I would not list and opinions I would not carry here and genuine racism is foremost among them.

But when you also denounce Jeremiah Wright, as I have done Geraldine Ferraro, and when you denounce the vitriol that has been spewed at Hillary Clinton, I'll respect your consistency.

Meanwhile,your threat to organize progressives to somehow police speech you dislike impresses me not at all. Threats seldom do.

Isophorone said...


How nice of you to mention my blog! Have you actually gone through every one of Karen's blog links, and every link to their links to see if they meet with your approval? You certainly have a lot of time on your hands!

Maybe you want to come by my site and tell me what is FACTUALLY wrong with the "Jews Against Obama" site. Better yet, tell them! Clearly, you don't believe in freedom of speech and would probably try to censor the likes of me if you ever had the chance. Some "liberal" you are! (I am also guessing that you would somehow not object to a site called "Jews against McCain" or anyone who links to it.)

As far as young Mr. Tribbett is concerned, well, he and I have had our differences, to put it mildly. For the most part, I look upon him as a partisan (which is his right) who sometimes makes some interesting observations. I do not look upon him as a racist; however, I wonder if he thinks through the logic of excusing the behavior of certain elected officials and political operatives. Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus.

Now about the food: Regardless of the party in power, I think you are really more likely to get sicker from "organic" food than the normal stuff. There is a much greater chance of exposure to fecal material and other thing. The cool part is that you often get to pay extra for the privilege!

By the way Karen, I saw an interesting article online from the New York Times about how biodiesel plants were leading to all kinds of water pollution problems. Given that Democrats are the bigger champions of biofuel schemes, you might want to give some attention to this issue given all the negative consequences we all have been experiencing recently.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Awww, Iso, and I thought you were just going to defend me and not point out where we disagree :)

Actually, my only point is that there is a role for the FDA and for government inspection of foods. The other alternative is that we all have mini-labs to conduct these experiments ourselves for food safety.

As you know, townhouses in Burke often present a space problem to setting up such a lab so I'd really like my government - the FDA and USDA - to do their job.

BTW, I don't eat organic food because Fresh Foods in non union.