FDA can’t afford new food-safety law; wants industry to pay

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is having difficulty implementing expansive new rules to improve food safety, nearly two years after President Barack Obama signed them into law.

Reuters reports that FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg predicted yesterday that her agency “very soon” will issue new regulations needed to enforce the Food
Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping law enacted to upgrade the security of the U.S. food supply after a deadly salmonella outbreak in 2009.

Hamburg called on private industry to help finance the law’s provisions. The FDA regulates about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply. The Department of Agriculture oversees meat and poultry.

Thank you for barfing; no money for US food safety changes

The ink hasn’t dried on the new U.S. food safety bill – because it won’t be signed until Jan. 2011 – but many are already saying there’s no money to implement the proposed changes, and Republicans are going to make sure of it.

I still don’t care; it’s all political claptrap.

Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration, told the Washington Post today the number of cases of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. does not justify the $1.4 billion the new law is estimated to cost over the first five years, adding,

"I would not identify it as something that will necessarily be zeroed out, but it is quite possible it will be scaled back if it is significant overreach. We still have a food supply that’s 99.99 percent safe. No one wants anybody to get sick, and we should always strive to make sure food is safe. But the case for a $1.4 billion expenditure isn’t there."

Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham said the same thing a few days ago.

“We simply don’t have the money to pay for it.”

FDA also released a Food Bill For Dummies guide to the proposed changes a couple of days ago.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gives FDA a mandate to pursue a system that is based on science and addresses hazards from farm to table, putting greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illness. The reasoning is simple: The better the system handles producing, processing, transporting, and preparing foods, the safer our food supply will be.

I thought FDA was already supposed to do this.

The legislation, which FDA experts say transforms the food safety system, includes the following major provisions:

* Food facilities must have a written preventive controls plan that spells out the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products. This plan would outline steps that a food facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.

* FDA must establish science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. These standards must consider not only man-made risks to fresh produce safety, but also naturally-occurring hazards—such as those posed by the soil, animals, and water in the growing area.

* FDA is directed to increase the frequency of inspections. High-risk domestic facilities must receive an initial inspection within the next five years and no less than every three years after that. During the next year, FDA must inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities and double the number of those inspections every year for the next five years. With the availability of resources, FDA will build the inspection capacity to meet these important goals.

* FDA is authorized to mandate a recall of unsafe food if the food company fails to do it voluntarily. The law also provides a more flexible standard for administrative detention (the procedure FDA uses to keep suspect food from being moved); allows FDA to suspend the registration of a food facility associated with unsafe food, thereby preventing it from distributing food; and directs the agency to improve its ability to track both domestic and imported foods.

In testimony before Congress in March, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that user fees collected from food companies and farms would pay for most of the increased inspections and other costs associated with the legislation. But a provision for user fees in the House version was cut from the final language, leaving the government to foot the entire cost.

Mark McClellan, who served as FDA commissioner from 2002 to 2004, said that without additional funding, Congress is unfairly raising expectations, adding,

"It’s relatively easy to pass legislation that the FDA needs to do more things. It’s very hard to back that up with resources. And problems may be compounded by legislation like this, which raises expectations that the FDA should be doing this, that or other things."

Producers, processors, retailers, restaurants, mere mortals, take care of food safety. And if you do, tell the world about it, market it, promote microbiologically-safe food. People care about this stuff. Politicians, not so much.

Danger: This email contains barf, poop and foodborne pathogens, fund bites.ksu.edu

What we have discovered at bites.ksu.edu is that it’s best to be obvious and when possible, humorous. Food safety information can be boring, leading to complacency. We make important food safety information accessible and interesting to everyone, because everyone eats.

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There’s no shortage of food safety news; there is a shortage of evidence-based, incisive approaches that challenge food safety norms and may eventually lead to fewer sick people.

The International Food Safety Network evolved into bites.ksu.edu over the past year as a way of consolidating and making food safety news delivery more efficient. In addition to the web repository, the bites-l electronic newsletter is distributed 2-3 times a day to a dedicated subscriber base of some 10,000 in 60 countries; a list that has been focused and refined by offering continuous, daily food safety news since 1994. barfblog.com – averaging well over 10,000 unique hits a day — along with weekly food safety infosheets (available in multiple languages), and videos, are now prominent food safety resources.

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bites.ksu.edu is a unique comprehensive resource hosted at Kansas State University for all those with a personal or professional interest in food safety. We find credible, current, evidence-based information on food safety and make it accessible to domestic and international audiences through multiple media. Sources of food safety information include government regulatory agencies, international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), peer-reviewed scientific publications, academia, recognized experts in the field and other sources as appropriate.

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Breaking food safety news items that eventually appear in bites or barfblog are often posted on Twitter (under barfblog or benjaminchapman) for faster public notification.

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These are the various information products we deliver daily, in addition to research, training and outreach. If you or your group is interested in sponsoring any or all of these food safety activities, please contact me directly.

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Kansas State University
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Peanut butter, spinach, tomato and Chinese toy sandwich

Jon Stewart was poking fun at critics of President Obama’s stimulus package on The Daily Show last night, and came up with this quip:

Funding for regulatory agencies? Please. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a peanut butter, spinach, tomato and Chinese toy sandwich to finish.

The line comes about 3:23 into this video.

If Ron Paul can bring in $6 million in a weekend, can’t iFSN?

Last Sunday, U.S. Republican presidential candidate and raw-milk darling Ron Paul, set a new record for a presidential candidate in either party, hauling in more than $6 million online.

In the new New Republic, msnbc host Tucker Carlson, in the appropriately titled, On the road with Ron Paul’s merry band of misfits and his hooker fan club, writes,

"that Paul, who is small and delicate and has a high voice, spoke in a near monotone, making no effort to excite the audience. They cheered anyway. Then he said this: ‘The Constitution gives no authority for a central bank.’

"The crowd went wild, or as wild as a group of sober Republicans can on a Monday night. They hooted and yelled and stomped their feet. Paul stopped speaking for a moment, his words drowned out. Then he continued on about monetary policy.

"Paul never outshines his message, which is unchanging: Let adults make their own choices; liberty works. For a unified theory of everything, it’s pretty simple. And Paul sincerely believes it.

"Most Republicans, of course, profess to believe it too. But only Paul has introduced a bill to legalize unpasteurized milk. Give yourself five minutes and see if you can think of a more countercultural idea than that. Most people assume that the whole reason we have a government is to make sure the milk gets pasteurized. It takes some stones to argue otherwise, especially if nobody’s paying you to do it. (The raw-milk lobby basically consists of about eight goat- cheese enthusiasts in Manhattan, and possibly the Amish.)

"Paul is pro-choice on pasteurization entirely for reasons of principle. ‘I support the right of people to drink whatever they want," he says. He mocks the idea that "only government can make sure we’re safe, so we need the government to protect us. I don’t think we’d all die of unsafe food if we didn’t have the FDA. Someone else would do it.’"

Hey, I’m all for libertarianism. But what about the kids that get sick?

From 1998 to 2005, a total of 45 outbreaks of foodborne illness were reported to CDC in which unpasteurized milk (or cheese suspected to have been made from unpasteurized milk) was implicated. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths.
Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with unpasteurized milk likely is greater.

A table of the outbreaks is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/articles/1138/RawMilkOutbreakTable.pdf

Yes, lots of foods make people sick. And people should be free to choose what they ingest.

The 19th century English utilitarian philosopher, John Stuart Mill, noted that choice has limits, stating, "if it [in this case the consumption of raw unpasteurized milk] only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself."

Excused from Mill’s libertarian principle are those people who are incapable of self-government – children.

Science can be used to enhance what nature provided. Further, society has a responsibility to the many — philosopher Mill also articulated how the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the one — to use knowledge to minimize harm.

Adults, do whatever you think works to ensure a natural and healthy lifestyle, but please, don’t impose your dietary regimes on those incapable of protecting themselves: your kids.

And support the International Food Safety Network.

Give large. Give small. It’s all on-line at

Any problems, just e-mail me, dpowell@ksu.edu.

And if you benefit from our services, then we’re continuing with our payment model that alt.music darlings Radiohead stole from us: pay what you want. If there’s that much money for Ron Paul, there’s some for safe food.

Kids love the video

Did you see those videos on barfblog.com last night?

Ben borrowed a classic from Beavis and Butthead, and Andrew posted the results of his first foray into video — in the fall we gave him a video camera he’d never used before, sent him to the state fair in Hutchinson, Kansas, and told him to come back with a story (risks associated with petting zoos).

After training for a semester, you are going to see a lot more video from Andrew and others at iFSN.

A culture of safe food needs cool videos. And iFSN.

Give large. Give small. It’s all on-line at


Any problems, just e-mail me, dpowell@ksu.edu.

And if you benefit from our services, then we’re continuing with our payment model that alt.music darlings Radiohead stole from us: pay what you want.

Food safety culture — where iFSN is going

Barfblog, Don’t Eat Poop, and news from FSnet, Agnet, AnimalNet and FFnet.

We need your help to keep it going.

Give large. Give small. It’s all on-line at https://one.found.ksu.edu/ccon/new_gift.do?action=newGift&CCN_FUND_ID=3894&SCENARIO=SELECTFUND

Any problems, just e-mail me, dpowell@ksu.edu.

Over the next few weeks you’re going to hear a lot about the who, how, what and why of what we do.

And if you benefit from our services, then we’re continuing with our payment model that alt.music darlings Radiohead stole from us: pay what you want.