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Food companies have great lobbyists

February 6, 2009

Today's AP article on the ongoing discoveries relative the the peanut butter contamination are directly on point with what we are trying to save ourselves from in Glasgow. Just this week we have corresponded with our state legislators congratulating them for the HB 153 milk initiative and we emailed our congressional delegation in support of the appointment of Chuck Hassebrook, a Nebraskan ag expert who has long called for reforms and argued that the high limits on farm payments encourage consolidation in agriculture at the expense of the family farm, as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. We support him because he has the guts to bring real regulation and safety to our food system. It would be wonderful if 10,000 other "sustainable" movements would take hold in 10,000 other cities across the country, but, until then, we will continue the battle for Glasgow. Adding insult to injury, now we are having to tell the thousands of fellow Kentuckians who are still in shelters from the ice storm, that the peanut butter in their MRE's may be contaminated with salmonella. Now isn't that special?

Here is the article I am talking about:
 

Lawmakers: Food safety fixes need push from Obama
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Fixing the nation’s food safety woes may not be possible this year unless President Barack Obama makes it a top priority, a senior lawmaker warned after a hearing Thursday exposed loopholes in government oversight that contributed to the ongoing national salmonella outbreak.
“I hope President Obama puts the weight of his office behind this,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, DIowa, said. “It’s going to require them to be actively pushing on this. This is a matter that we can’t continue to put off.” The salmonella outbreak — blamed on a company that produces only about 1 percent of the nation’s peanut products — has sickened at least 575 people in 43 states. At least eight have died. More than 1,300 foods that used ingredients from Peanut Corp. of America’s peanut processing plant in Blakely, Ga., have been recalled. While the outbreak appears to be slowing down, new illnesses are still being reported.
As a precautionary measure, Kentucky stopped distributing FEMA emergency meal kits Thursday for victims of last week’s ice storm after authorities warned that the meals may include packets of recalled peanut butter. No illnesses have been reported there.
Obama said earlier this week he’s not satisfied with how the Food and Drug Administration is handling food safety and his administration is reviewing the agency’s operations. At a Senate hearing Thursday on the salmonella outbreak, lawmakers reacted angrily when told that food companies and state safety inspectors don’t have to report to the FDA when test results find pathogens in a processing plant.
That leaves federal officials in the dark.
“I’d like to see some people go to jail,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said. “A fine is a cost of doing business. When somebody thinks they’re going to go to jail if they don’t report something and clean it up, that’s an entirely different matter.” Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA’s food safety program, said companies are required to inform the FDA if they discover contamination after they’ve shipped a product, but not if the food is still at the plant. States forward reports on inspections they conduct for the FDA, but are not required to send inspections performed under their own laws.
“That’s one of the very serious loopholes we need to plug,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
In the Peanut Corp. case, the company found salmonella in its products at least 12 times in the past two years. FDA officials say the company retested, got a negative reading and shipped the products. Peanut Corp. denies any wrongdoing, and says it has fully cooperated with the investigation. The government has opened a criminal probe.
Several lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve the food safety system.

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Sustainable Glasgow is dedicated to the development of the theory, and practice, of sustainable living in the Barren County area. We seek to provide the ideas, information, education, infrastructure, and political will, that inspires and facilitates community members to bring about systemic changes in all of our institutions that are necessary to create a sustainable economy for the region surrounding Glasgow, Kentucky.

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