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Oct. 4, 2011 by Thomas McGarity

As More Sickened From Tainted Cantaloupes, House on Track to Cut Food Safety Budget

Last week, we learned that the nation suffered the deadliest outbreak of foodborne disease in the last decade or more. As Jensen Farms of  Granada, Colorado recalled millions of potentially contaminated “Rocky Road” cantaloupes, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control concluded that 15 deaths and 84 serious illnesses in 19 states were caused by melons containing the rare but exceedingly virulent bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease they contracted, called Listeriosis, has a mortality rate of around 25 percent. Those victims who are fortunate enough to survive are at risk for meningitis and encephalitis.

In addition to being one of the most vicious of the known foodborne pathogens, Listeria is one of the more insidious bugs. The tiny bacteria can hide in the crevices of cantaloupes, remaining there after the fruit has undergone multiple washings. When the melons are sliced, the bacteria can find their way into the fruit where they can thrive at room temperature and even at temperatures commonly found in the refrigerator. Once the contaminated fruit is consumed the disease can germinate in the body for weeks before the victim feels its ill effects. The current outbreak is the first known outbreak attributable to Listeria in cantaloupes …

July 5, 2011 by Shana Campbell Jones
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Let’s go on a road trip. Whether it’s the beach or the mountains, we all know what going on a road trip means: great memories, possible adventure, time to mosey around the country we love. The Chamber of Commerce is also planning a road trip this summer, headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s former chief of staff. But fun and relaxation are not on the itinerary. Regulations that could protect our children are.

At ThinkProgress, CPR Member Scholar Sid Shapiro explained why the anti-regulation roadshow is ridiculous because of all the myths and misinformation it’s designed to promote. He’s right, of course, but, as a mother, I want to add another perspective. I’m tired of the well-worn refrain that “excessive” regulations “suck the vitality” out of the economy. Not only is the claim false …

June 21, 2011 by Rena Steinzor
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Manic House Republicans voted last Thursday to de-fund the implementation of a landmark law, passed just a few months ago, to strengthen Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to police tainted food. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House subcommittee that wrote the agriculture appropriations bill, announced on the House floor that the cuts were justified because the nation's food supply was “99.99 percent safe.” 

“Do we believe that McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Safeway and Kraft Food and any brand name that you think of, that these people aren't concerned about food safety?,” Kingston said. “The food supply in America is very safe because the private sector self-polices, because they have the highest motivation. They don't want to be sued, they don't want to go broke.  They want their customers to be healthy and happy.”

Sadly for …

June 2, 2011 by Lena Pons
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For the last two decades, scientists have amassed evidence that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a threat to human health. BPA is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, can liners for food and beverages, and thermal paper used for register receipts. It is used in so many applications that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of BPA in 93 percent of people it tested. Although scientists have targeted BPA as a public health concern, plastics industry lobbyists have attempted to thwart the efforts of federal, state, and local authorities to reduce exposure to BPA.

The industry arguments can confuse the public because the way BPA acts on the body is counter-intuitive. Contrary to the old toxicology axiom that “the dose makes the poison,” smaller amounts of BPA are linked to a host of negative health effects. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, a …

May 10, 2011 by Dan Rohlf
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In an impressive effort to demonstrate that crafting bad environmental legislation knows no partisan boundaries, Democratic Senator John Tester of  Montana – who recently spearheaded a successful effort to remove wolves from the endangered species list through a budget maneuver – last month introduced legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Several environmental organizations last year petitioned EPA to mandate the use of non-lead bullets and shot, noting that traditional bullets used by hunters spread lead fragments throughout the environment, poisoning a wide variety of non-target birds and other wildlife, including critically imperiled species such as California condors.

Tester claims that his legislation would protect hunters when “Washington DC’s rules get in the way of common sense.” But it’s actually the status quo that’s a nonsensical health hazard for hunters and their friends and families …

Feb. 2, 2011 by Rena Steinzor
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Today's announcement by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that EPA will move toward regulating perchlorate, reversing a decision by the George W. Bush Administration, is bittersweet. It’s great that EPA has recognized the need to regulate, but the agency has adopted such a leisurely timeline that the entire effort could end up being undercut.

The agency said: "EPA intends to publish the proposed regulation and analyses for public review and comment within 24 months. EPA will consider the public comments and expects to promulgate a final regulation within 18 months of the proposal."

The Bush Administration had shut down EPA efforts to deal with this hazard, despite ample evidence of the danger. So it's obviously welcome news that the Obama EPA has made confronting the problem its official policy. But today's announcement is quite limited. EPA is actually saying that a regulation wouldn't …

Dec. 23, 2010 by Rena Steinzor
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Salmonella in eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, and spinach; and melamine in pet food and candy imported from China… With a regularity that has become downright terrifying, the food safety system in the United States has given us ample evidence that it has broken down completely. And so, in a small miracle of legislative activism, Democrats in Congress finally mustered the will and the votes to act, passing H.R. 2751 yesterday, not for the first time, but for the second time in the Senate and the third in the House. (A mistake on a technicality—Senate failure to follow an arcane procedure that allows everyone to pretend the bill it just passed originated in the House, where all tax legislation is required by the Constitution to begin its journey into law.)

Many people deserve credit for this December miracle, although my hat is especially doffed for Representatives John …

Sept. 20, 2010 by Ben Somberg
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The toxic drywall issue has been relatively quiet in the press for some time now. Some guy in Manatee County FL looks to be trying to flip a few contaminated houses (unclear how much he's repairing them). Habitat for Humanity had a drywall problem in New Orleans. No real big announcements from CPSC of late.

The Times came back to the drywall issue on Saturday, though, and found that the situation remains fairly bleak for many affected homeowners:

But so far the relief has been negligible. Most insurance companies have yet to pay a dime. Only a handful of home builders have stepped forward to replace the tainted drywall. Help offered by the government — like encouraging lenders to suspend mortgage payments and reducing property taxes on damaged homes — has not addressed the core problem of replacing the drywall. And Chinese manufacturers have argued that United States …

Sept. 1, 2010 by James Goodwin
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On July 9, 2010, following more than 10 years of interference and delay, the Food and Drug Administration’s rule to prevent salmonella contamination in eggs finally went into effect. FDA officials have argued that this rule—which, among other things, requires farms to test eggs and facilities for salmonella, protect feed and water from contamination, and buy chicks and young hens from suppliers that monitor for salmonella—would have likely prevented the massive salmonella outbreak that has sickened 1,470 individuals and resulted in one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history, with more than half a billion eggs being pulled off stores’ shelves. It’s hard to know whether this is necessarily true or not, but if adequately enforced, the rule certainly would have driven very significant changes to the facilities we've learned about in the past weeks.  Tragically, the salmonella outbreak …

Sept. 1, 2010 by Catherine O'Neill
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According to the egg industry, the thousands of people sickened by eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis have only themselves to blame. As USA Today reported:

"Consumers that were sickened reportedly all ate eggs that were not properly or thoroughly cooked. Eggs need to be cooked so that the whites and yolks are firm (not runny) which should kill any bacteria," says Mitch Head, spokesperson for the United Egg Producers.

"Some people may not think of an egg as you would ground beef, but they need to start," says Krista Eberle of the United Egg Producers' Egg Safety Center. "It may sound harsh and I don't mean it to sound that way. But all the responsibility cannot be placed on the farmer. Somewhere along the line consumers have to be responsible for what they put in their bodies."

With more than 500 million eggs to date subject …

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