Who’s Minding the War on Bugs?

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In submitting its 2011 budget proposal, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) —the agency that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, calls the Fear and Denial Administration — has requested $4.03 billion to “promote and protect the public health.” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., says the budget “reflects the FDA’s resolve to transform food safety practices.” And according to a recent FDA press release, the Transforming Food Safety Initiative reflects President Obama’s vision of a new food-safety system to protect the American public: “The FDA will set standards for safety, expand laboratory capacity, pilot track and trace technology, strengthen its import safety program, improve data collection and risk analysis, and begin to establish an integrated national food safety system with strengthened inspection and response capacity” — at a cost of $318.3 million.

On the same day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced “sweeping changes to assure the safety and quality of foods” purchased for the National School Lunch Program, which feeds 31 million children. An investigation by USA Today had identified a number of failures in government programs that oversee food safety in the lunch program. The investigation, which compared government’s food-safety efforts with those of private enterprise, found fast-food chains (including McDonald’s) to be far more effective than government in checking for bacteria. USA Today also discovered that in the summer of 2009, a California company forced to recall 826,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with drug-resistant salmonella was paid several hundred thousand dollars by the USDA for 450,000 pounds of ground beef produced during the recall period.

For its March 2010 issue, Consumer Reports analyzed pre-washed salad greens sold in supermarkets and found high levels of bacteria linked to fecal contamination and poor sanitation. You may remember that in 2006, a bacterial outbreak in fresh spinach killed three people and hospitalized more than 100. The source of contamination was never identified, but suspicion pointed to groundwater flowing from a nearby cattle and pig farm.

A British report charges China with unleashing waves of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a consequence of Chinese farmers’ overuse of antibiotics Siringue in a pork meat pieceand Chinese doctors’ routine prescribing of antibiotics to treat sore throats and other illnesses. The head of the Chinese National Antibiotic Resistance Investigation Network has noted that in contrast to the WHO guideline of 30 percent, more than 60 percent of patients in Chinese hospitals are given antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is now a global concern, in part because of books like Sara Bongiorni’s A Year Without “Made in China”. Even the USDA acknowledges that 50 percent of the apple juice imported by the United States comes from China. The current government effort, which pits the FDA against the USDA and both against the Environmental Protection Agency, is wasteful and ineffective. What we need is an integrated effort to spread the word that the unfettered use of antibiotics in raising animals and overuse in humans has consequences for both human health and the health of the environment.

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  • Charles Dineen

    While we continue to allow corporate america to sell us anti bacterial hand and dish soap.We need to clean up our own act too.

    • Doris Mansfield

      Without bacteria and virus, our immune systems have nothing to fight off and become weakened. Liken it to the elk in Yellowstone Park who have become weak due to no wolves chasing them. Everything has a purpose.Just say “NO” to food from China, is a good start. I know that we owe them a lot of bucks, but still we can stand up for ourselves.

  • topogiego

    I think the less we import the better. There are WAY too many things coming from China, and they have destroyed our American industry to the core. Our land is contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, chemicals from aluminum and coal plants and the list is way to long to put here.

    It is more important now, than every, that America step back several decades, and return to sustainable farming practices and grow our own, importing only what is indigenous to other countries and will not grow here. Our lands need to be cleaned up, excommunicating Monsanto seeds and chemicals from the earth, as they have been a detriment to this land since it’s inception. American needs sustainable farming, but it is also worthy to note that the CLEANLINESS OF THE FIELD WORKERS must be maintained. We must stop blaming the cattle and pigs, as true farmers know how their waste affects the sustainability of this planet. Always remember that animals were here before people, and the Earth flourished. People then entered the picture and decided everything was better with chemicals. When it comes down to the reality of this, I would blame workers excreting their waste in the fields, before I would blame the animals that are not on these commercial farms. In other words, this contamination is more likely to be coming from human field workers than farm animals who are not in close proximity to the plantings.

  • topogiego

    As far as the antibiotic use…it’s uncalled for, and the US Commercial farming industry is horribly guilty as well. It’s not just about what China sends. In a manner of speaking, we have NO NEED to import meats from China, AT ALL, if this is the case. Why would that be if we have our own livestock farms? Could it be that American livestock have been inflicted with so much disease from outside sources, we possibly do not have enough?

    The US is filled with farms and apple trees! And I know for a fact that the US government PAYS people not to farm specific crops. Seems all we’re good for these days is that stinking GMO, Monsanto laden SOY, which is being put into EVERYTHING, even shampoos and tuna fish. Read your labels carefully. WHY in the good name of the US are we importing this stuff from CHINA? Because it’s all GMO apple juice, therefore making it a useless drink with tons of sugar and high fructose corn syrup?

    To set the records straight, the United States has plenty of NON-GMO apple trees, that governments do not want Americans to realize. Lets get OUR OWN farming industry back in motion. Who authorized importation of everything from China?

    GLOBALIZATION is the DEATH of the American food industry, and the sooner the FDA and USDA understand this, the better. Any food that contains the modified food gene to contain that of a poison, will surely cause more than accelerated rates of Cancer. Our bodies were designed for the food that was originally on this planet…not something created by a chemical company. Make sense? When organizations like Monsanto begin changing the absolute nutrient value of foods, it’s time to close their doors by public demand, and remove Monsanto operatives from the FDA and other government offices. They have no business in government, or dictating to American government agencies.

    The thing is…the overuse of antibiotics is at its max, and I have heard in many cases, the people who actually need antibiotic treatment are being declined, and when they do give them antibiotics, the folks receiving them are getting ‘sub standard generics’ which in no way complete the killing of bacteria. It appears as though the druggists are making judgments about what people can and cannot afford. Where do they get this right and especially when the infection is recurring, sends the patient back to the doctor yet one more time, for treatment.

    So it’s an unequal venture out here. They give more potent antibiotics to commercial farm animals for disease prevention than to people, and by the time and by the time the human is treated, their bodies do not respond. It’s ludicrous at best.