The Checkout

Live blogging the House's food safety hearing

Annys Shin

Hello from the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture That I Have Never Heard Of Until Now.

I've threatened to live blog before and today I have finally procured a laptop and an air card.

The point of this gathering today--and there is a second one tomorrow--is ostensibly to talk about the problems with tracing produce through the distribution chain in case of an outbreak or terrorist attack on the food supply.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control honchos have said the difficulty tracing tomatoes slowed the Salmonella saintpaul investigation.

Other food safety experts say traceability is just one of many problems. I wrote today about another one: local and state health departments have uneven capacity to deal with foodborne illness detection and investigations. It explains how that affects all of us during a multi state outbreak such as the current current tomato/pepper situation.

The hearing has finally started and Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Cardoza is getting right down to business. "I'd just like to hear what went wrong," he said.

The first panel consists entirely of other members of Congress.

On deck now is Rep. Adam Putnam (D-Fla.) who has come up with the "Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act," or the "Safe FEAST Act."

If you think that is clever, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) has not one, but two bills with titles that spell out food safety-related words. There's the the Safe And Fair Enforcement and Recall (SAFER) Meat, Poultry, and Food Act of 2007. And the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere (TRACE) Act.

I bet a lot of hours were spent around the white board to come up with those.

Aw man, DeGette just brought up the Pizza Conundrum, a real chestnut of food safety criticism. (The FDA oversees frozen pizzas but not ones with lots of meat on them, which fall to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.) I think some eyeballs just rolled over at FDA and USDA.

They're done talking.

"Your testimony was as enlightening as I thought it would be," Cardoza said.

Hmm. What would he have said if it wasn't?

By Annys Shin |  July 30, 2008; 2:22 PM ET Annys Shin
Previous: Update: Earthworks Responds to WMT's New Jewelry | Next: BREAKING NEWS: Salmonella Saintpaul Found in Irrigation Water on Mexican Pepper Farm


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Here is another twist to the story; You have to wonder why more folks are not using an all natural produce wash, especialy at the industrial and foodservice levels?

Here is the link:

Produce wash kills bacteria on food

Published: June 26, 2008 at 2:34 PM

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PULLMAN, Wash., June 26 (UPI) -- A fruit and vegetable wash, when used in food-manufacturing, can decrease food pathogens in produce-processing wash water, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Idaho and Washington State University said the product sold commercially as FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash, not only proved much more effective than the commonly used chlorine dioxide, but is made from ingredients like citric acid and distilled grapefruit oil that are generally regarded as safe.

Chlorine dioxide, used in food plants, can put workers at risk, when compromised by soils and plant debris in the wash water. In the study, chlorine dioxide killed 90 percent of the target organisms in the food plant and follow-up laboratory studies. By contrast, FIT killed 99.999 percent, said food scientist Dong-Hyun Kang of Washington State University.

"If you had a million bacteria, you would have one left," Kang said.

The research -- unusual because part of it was conducted under real-world conditions in an Idaho fresh pack potato operation -- is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Food Science in August.

Posted by: J | July 30, 2008 3:22 PM

To me it seems that if we want to increase food safety the house should focus on decresing food outsourcing, and instead encourage domestic food production outside of California besides soy and feed corn...not to say that your local farmer couldn't have bacteria problems but ideally it would be easier to trace and deal with the problem if it were to occur.

Posted by: sew | July 30, 2008 4:32 PM

"How Industry Lobbying Slowed Salmonella Search: The Need for California and National Action to Ensure Food Safety" by Frank Pecarich

Posted by: Frank | July 30, 2008 6:26 PM

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