Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fit to Eat



Jensen Farms owner Eric Jensen

Listeria monocytogenes

As if the pigs weren't enough...
They were disappearing, the pigs, in Pig Country, near Lafayette, Minnesota, the childhood home of actress and animal rescuer, Tippi Hedren.
150 pigs weighing about 270 pounds each have been snatched, absconded, and stolen (not only that, they were purloined as well!), from an enclosed pig structure, or what some call... a barn, despite dead bolts and other security measures being in place.
Farther north near Lake Lillian, 594 snorting and squealing hogs disappeared last month!
This is no joke. With what it takes to feed these oinkers to get ready for market (poor little piggies) it adds up to a major theft of around $30,000!
And not only in Minnesota, but Iowa too. Pigs are being stolen 20 or 30 at a time.
“Hundreds of pigs don’t just disappear,” said Marc Chadderdon, a sheriff’s investigator.
And trying to find these stolen hogs are a tad difficult due to the fact that "They all look alike,” as declared by the sheriff of Lafayette, Curt Yonker, who also said he's never heard of anything like it in his many years on the job.
There is no evidence Ms Hedren had anything to do with these mysterious disappearances.
Those economists who specialize in issues dealing with livestock say the thefts in this hog-rich region is one more sign of a grim economy, a reflection of record-high prices for hogs this year, and the ease of stealing pigs from the large barns that are often far from the farmer’s house.
But now our farmers are dealing with a whole lot of bad cantaloupes as well... killer cantaloupes, which is much more serious than wandering pigs... and even rolling, sentient tomatoes for that matter ("Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," parts 1 & 2).
Jensen Farms, of Granada, Colorado, has recalled their entire 2011 cantaloupe harvest, including more than 300,000 cases distributed from July 29th through September, or between 1.5 million and 4.5 million whole melons. The cantaloupes were shipped to at least 28 states, and were sold in large retail stores, including Safeway and Walmart.
Why were they recalled? They seem to be infected with a deadly bacteria, listeria, which has been attributed to 15 to16 deaths as of September 30th, and up to 84 illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control. According to the CDC, this is the third deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness since the agency began keeping records. In 1985, cheese contaminated with listeria killed 52 people. In 1998, listeria contaminated hot dogs killed 21.
Listeria is usually the source agent of the relatively rare bacterial disease, listeriosis, which is a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems, and seniors, in other words the weakest and most vulnerable among us. The overt form of the disease has a mortality rate greater than 25 percent.
Deaths from this latest outbreak include five in New Mexico, three in Colorado, two in Texas and one each in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The most illnesses have been reported in Colorado, with 17 cases, and New Mexico, with 13. The cantaloupes have not been exported to other countries. Only cantaloupes grown from Jensen Farms are affected. All other are safe, though it may not be clear where the fruit was grown when purchased in a store. Dear readers, it is suggested that if you are not sure where recently purchased cantaloupes were grown you should discard them, because listeria cannot be killed by refrigeration, and cantaloupes are not amenable to being cooked.
The FDA's Office of Foods said the agency is looking at the farm's water supply and the possibility that animals wandered into Jensen Farms' fields, among other things, in trying to figure out how the cantaloupes became contaminated. Listeria bacteria grows in moist, muddy conditions and is often carried by animals. And unlike mass production facilities that crowd animals into tiny spaces to breed, fatten, and prepare for market, pigs let say, and are conducive to the spread of antibiotic resistant disease... it is hard to place blame on the operators and owners of Jensen Farms, although they will most certainly be held legally liable, and thus most likely be ruined financially.
In other related news, True Leaf Farms of California, a processing arm of Salinas based Church Brothers LLC, is voluntarily recalling romaine lettuce that was shipped between Sept. 12th and 13th, to a food service distributor in Oregon, who shipped it to Washington and Idaho. Last Friday it expanded its recall to include nearly 2,500 cartons distributed to 21 U.S. states and Canada. Why? The lettuce is potentially contaminated with listeria.
There is no connection between the lettuce recall and the outbreak tied to cantaloupes, the Food and Drug Administration spokesman Douglas Karas said Friday.
"Any time we find listeria in food we would consider that food adulterated and ask for a recall," Karas said in an email. "The finding of listeria in romaine lettuce was a result of an FDA research program to understand the prevalence of listeria in fresh produce, particularly lettuce and leafy greens."
Last August the food giant Cargill pulled 36 million pounds of ground turkey (an item I use quite frequently myself) after a salmonella outbreak linked to one of the company’s plants sickened nearly 80 people, killing one.
Tyson Fresh Meats, was forced last week to recall more than 130,000 pounds of ground beef due to E. Coli contamination.
The CDC estimates that about 48 million people in the U.S. each year get sick from tainted food, with about 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 deaths.
The Republican Party is continuing its efforts to gut food safety laws aimed at protecting Americans from these types of food-borne illnesses. In June, House Republicans attempted to kill the first significant upgrade in the nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years, saying the private food industry sufficiently self-polices itself. Last week, presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called for an end to food safety laws altogether, which she claimed were stifling job creation.
According to Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project the annual cost of food illnesses is $152 billion, and the cost of not overhauling outdated food safety laws far exceeds the cost of implementing the new policies the GOP opposes.
In the Senate, Republican Tom Coburn, (R-OK), slowed and finally killed food safety legislation. Coburn said he would block the bill until the Democrats could figure out a way to cover its cost, calculated at $1.4 billion over five years. He also criticized the "weak mechanisms" and "ineffective implementation" in the current food safety system (which was the one which caught the above outbreaks and advanced the recalls) and said the public would be better served by increasing its efficiency rather than spending money on new protections.
But backers argued that the bill was necessary to protect public health.
Here Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)... discusses the matter with Coburn.
Need I say it. It is the job of Congress to protect the people of this country, from everything, food born illness to antagonistic foreign entities, and everything in between. That's the major function of government. It seems the Republicans place the health and well being of corporate interests above those of the American people.
But that should hardly come as a surprise. They're also seeking to block implementation of President Barack Obama's signature health care law without putting anything in it's place and thereby returning control of the health care system back into the unrestricted hands of corporate insurance companies (Republican War Against the American People). They wish to cut off federal funds for National Public Radio (Republican War Against Unbiased Information) and Planned Parenthood (Republican War Against Women), and reduce eligibility for grants for low-income college students (Republican War Against Our Future).
Republicans are demanding major cuts in a nutrition program for low-income women and children. Congressional Republicans want to reduce the federal contribution to Medicaid by $771 billion over next decade and shift more costs to states and low-income Americans (Republican War Against the Poor).
The budget plan presented by House Republicans for health and labor programs last week would scuttle several worker safety protections put forth by the Department of Labor. The budget would block the department from moving forward with its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which would require employers to develop written plans to address workplace hazards and reduce worker injuries (Republican War Against the American Worker).
The budget also would forbid the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration from ramping up the enforcement of harness rules for roofers working on residential construction sites intended to reduce the death and maiming of construction workers who labor on rooftops (Republican War Against Gravity).
All of these reductions, and more, simply to protect the richest 1% of the population from paying any additional taxes, even while those taxes are already at an historical low.
The Republicans, if they had their way, seem to desire a world dominated by social Darwinism. every person out for themselves, only the strongest and biggest get to survive (which the Republicans seem to equate with the wealthiest), all of our time spent chasing whatever crumbs the rich may leave us.
I think it's about time to pass a law protecting the American people from their own Congress.

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