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Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has spent the better part of the last two days trying to reassure the public that food safety is not at risk during the shutdown. On Wednesday and Thursday, through a series of tweets, Dr. Gottlieb explained (1) that routine food safety inspections are not taking place now; (2) that he is trying to get them re-started by next week – though he is not sure how to do it because FDA guidance requires routine inspections to cease when there is no funding; and that (3) high-risk food safety inspections are continuing. The key fact that most people don’t know is that there are very few food safety inspections in the U.S, which Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich pointed out in a story and in a devastating series of tweets.
There were more than 88,000 registered food facilities in the United States in 2016, according to FDA data, of which only 160 are inspected each week.
There are 20,000 high risk food facilities in the U.S., of which only 50 are inspected each week.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA is required to inspect all high-risk food facilities every three years, but at the rate of 50/week it will take 12 years to inspect them all.
The “good news” is that the Centers for Disease Control can now, after several months, state with some certainty that the romaine lettuce E-coli outbreak “appears to be over.” Whew. Still, Ecowatch reported on Wednesday on the risks to human health posed by concentrated animal feeding operations (known as CAFOs) in North Carolina. CAFOs store animal urine and feces — which contain E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, and other harmful bacteria – in “lagoons” that can overflow into surrounding rivers and streams, or sustain catastrophic structural damage as a result of heavy rainstorms. Or worse, to avoid overflows, the CAFOs spray excess waste onto surrounding agricultural fields as fertilizer for crops. Unfortunately, there are lots of holes and weak spots in our food safety system, even when the government is open.
Why This Matters:The good news is that your food is almost as safe now as it ever was. The bad news is that our safety inspection system is woefully underfunded and inadequate. But we should have already deduced that fact given the two deadly E-coli outbreaks in the last year. The law on food inspections is relatively strong, but not being fully implemented. And lax agricultural practices and health and safety regulations regarding pesticides and use of certain fertilizers create further loopholes that result in more risk than most people realize.
Why This Matters: The fact that Bayer is likely to get approval for this new crop, which would be resistant to the active chemical in Roundup, suggests that the losses in court had and will continue to have little impact on the company’s trajectory. Just because these herbicides won’t “harm” GE corn does not mean they won’t harm us.
As Pride Month has come to a close, we wanted to recognize members of the LGBTQ+ community who are breaking down barriers — gastronomic and cultural. Earlier this week a blog on Ecowatch.com called Food Tank spotlighted 24 collectives, farms, and other organizations that are working to strengthen LGBTQ+ representation in the food system, which […]
With supermarkets running low on meat, seafood is a healthy option, and sales of frozen seafood like shrimp and canned seafood (much of which is imported) are up over last year, according to some retailers. Most of the domestic seafood landed and sold in the U.S. comes from small fishing businesses and goes to restaurants and those sales are down as much as 95% across the country.
Why This Matters: Congress provided $300m for fishers in stimulus funding, but it is only a “drop in the bucket” of what is needed to keep fishers afloat said Alaskan commercial fisher Julie Decker on Tuesday at a forum convened by the Ocean Caucus Foundation.
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