aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, April 23, 2007
Maybe pet lovers can get some action at the FDA
We saw a friend who works at PetSmart yesterday and asked about pet food recalls. He says they just keep coming. Apparently pet food manufacturers were trying to spike the products to make claims of higher nutritional value. The FDA is “investigating.” The state health department took action:
In California, state agriculture officials placed a hog farm under quarantine after melamine was found in pig urine there. Additional testing was under way to determine whether the chemical was present in the meat produced by American Hog Farm in Ceres since April 3, the state Department of Food and Agriculture said.
So far, melamine’s been found in both wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China. Media reports from South Africa, where 30 dogs died, suggest a third pet food ingredient, corn gluten, used in that country also was contaminated with melamine. That tainted ingredient has not been found in the United States, the FDA said.
FDA investigators were awaiting visas that would allow them to visit the Chinese plants where the vegetable protein ingredients were produced.
Chocolate: how the FDA worksnew paradigm. Perhaps this suggests what they have in mind:
A little over 100 years ago, Milton Hershey created the nickel bar, the first American chocolate bar for the masses. Today, these small purchases of chocolate products add up to an $18-billion business. Like all foods in the United States, chocolate is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that consumers get a safe and consistent product.
But perhaps no longer. The FDA is entertaining a “citizen’s petition” to allow manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats and oils for cocoa butter.
The “citizens” who created this petition represent groups that would benefit most from this degradation of the current standards. They are the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the Snack Food Assn. and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (OK, I’m not sure what’s in it for them), along with seven other food producing associations.
The FDA makes me (& you) sick!
They are a tool of the food industry to offer you and me the illusion of oversight:
The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.
Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents. [...]
“We have 60,000 to 80,000 facilities that we’re responsible for in any given year,” [Robert E. Brackett, director of the food-safety arm of the FDA] says. Explosive growth in the number of processors and the amount of imported foods means that manufacturers “have to build safety into their products rather than us chasing after them,” Brackett said. “We have to get out of the 1950s paradigm.”
I’m fine with a new paradigm, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. “Food” should be considered food that you and me eat. Let’s treat it as such rather than as some corporate “product” they can “build safety into!” Let’s all take a good hard look at the paradigm Brackett’s been using:
In the peanut butter case, an agency report shows that FDA inspectors checked into complaints about salmonella contamination in a ConAgra Foods factory in Georgia in 2005. But when company managers refused to provide documents the inspectors requested, the inspectors left and did not follow up. [...]
The FDA has known even longer about illnesses among people who ate spinach and other greens from California’s Salinas Valley, the source of outbreaks over the past six months that have killed three people and sickened more than 200 in 26 states. The subsequent recall was the largest ever for leafy vegetables.
In a letter sent to California growers in late 2005, Brackett wrote, “FDA is aware of 18 outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1995 caused by [E. coli bacteria] for which fresh or fresh-cut lettuce was implicated. . . . In one additional case, fresh-cut spinach was implicated. These 19 outbreaks account for approximately 409 reported cases of illness and two deaths.”
“We know that there are still problems out in those fields,” Brackett said in an interview last week. “We knew there had been a problem, but we never and probably still could not pinpoint where the problem was. We could have that capability, but not at this point.”
Meanwhile, they’re recalling ground beef in five states after “children who ate at Little League baseball snack shacks were sickened by E. coli.” (Reminder, that recall comes from “state health officials” not the FDA.) I’m glad I know where my hamburger comes from.
Code 2.0 is here
From the Preface: “This is a translation of an old book-indeed, in Internet time, it is a translation of an ancient text.” That text is Lessig’s “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace.” The second version of that book is “Code v2.” The aim of Code v2 is to update the earlier work, making its argument more relevant to the current internet.
Towery: “the Wilson case result was not our intent”
On the AJC opinion page today, Matt Towery tells the tale of The Child Protection Act of 1995. That’s the law he introduced under which Genarlow Wilson was convicted for consensual sex with a 15 year-old girl when he was just 17:
In the Senate the bill hit a snag. The chairperson of the committee to which the bill was assigned wanted a bill to raise Georgia’s age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age. Although I am not assigning blame, the bill became victim of the ultimate legislative “Catch 22,” in which one bill couldn’t pass without the other.
When the bill came to the House floor for final approval, many bright minds such as then-state Rep. Roy Barnes and former Speaker Tom Murphy expressed concerns that young people, much like in the current case of Genarlow Wison, might be sentenced to the harsh 10-year prison term originally intended for blatant and extreme cruelty and abuse of children. Ultimately, most members came to believe that the language was vague enough to give leeway and that no prosecutor would ever so abuse the statute and its true legislative intent.
Years after I left the legislature, I learned certain prosecutors were using the bill as a “catchall” to win cases in which an older teen had consensual sex with an underaged teen. The legislature addressed that problem a few years ago, but the bill was not retroactive for cases like Wilson’s.
Towery reminds us that Wilson was found not guilty by a jury; and that legislators showed the “distasteful and sickening” though “irrelevant” tape of the party to achieve their repeated defeat of bills intended to give Genarlow another shot at the legal system.
Apparently there remains some opportunity to review Wilson’s case through the judicial process. I want to make it clear that this column is not designed to place unfair pressure on officials who might be involved. I trust they will do what is right in the end.
But for years now, I have tried every way in the world to point out that the ultimate determining factor in applying legislation is the legislative intent. And the Wilson case result was not our intent.