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article imageGOP calls for end of food safety laws against deadly bacteria

By Nancy Houser     Sep 29, 2011 in Health
Holly - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a statement regarding the seriousness of listeria, derived from eating cantaloupe. Yet, the GOP is calling for a decrease in food safety laws that protect people from diseases like listeria.
The listeria cantaloupe outbreak is reported as being the deadliest in the past ten years, with the CDC confirming deaths in Colorado (2), Kansas (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Oklahoma (1) and Texas (2) ---a long-lasting disease likely to remain throughout the end of October. So far, 72 individuals have been infected with four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes within 18 states.
The CDC and its partners are vital in ensuring a coordinated and rapid surveillance of multi-state foodborne outbreaks, in addition to its detection and response. CDC collects reports of foodborne outbreaks, such as cantaloupe listeria, or diseases due to chemical, parasitic, viral and bacterial agents to protect the country’s citizens. Yet procedures and laws need to be updated on a routine basis, which is impossible with the GOP calling for decreases in food safety laws.
Think Progress reports that the GOP refuses to approve the cost of new regulations to overhaul outdated food safety laws, “all but ensuring that deadly and costly food outbreaks will continue to occur all too frequently.”
Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) has called for an end to food safety laws, claiming they are stifling job creation---as she posed with huge slabs of beef for the media. Meanwhile, over 25 states have received shipments of tainted cantaloupes from the Jensen Farms in Colorado. Yet the GOP continues to gut the food safety laws that protect American citizens from foodborne illnesses, attempting to kill the first upgrade in the U.S. food safety laws in over 70 years last June.
The state, local and territorial public health agencies have a responsibility to report agent outbreaks to Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System through NORS, the National Outbreak Reporting System (CDC). Referred to as eFORS, an electronic Foodborne Outbreak Reporting System, it is a web-based platform to report, (1) foodborne, (2) enteric disease outbreaks transmitted through water, (3) person-to-person contact, or (4) direct contact with animals to CDC by state and territorial public health agencies. A seemingly complicated system, in the Think Progress website, Rep. Bachmann says, “That’s part of the problem, the overkill. And when they make it complicated, they make it expensive and so then you can no longer stay in business.”
Over 3,000 people die a year of foodborne illnesses every year with one-in-six Americans becoming ill. The annual cost of food illness is $152 billion dollars. According to the Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project in Think Progress Economy, the “cost of not overhauling outdated food safety laws far exceeds the cost of implementing the new policies that GOP opposes. “
With the viruses and bacteria becoming deadlier by the day and more difficult to diagnose, it is the wrong time to cut corners. PBS reports that Listeria can kill about 25 percent of the 1,100 who get it. At risk are pregnant women, the elderly, young children and those with immune system defects. Dr. Robert Tauxe, Centers for Disease Control, says that the best way to find the listeria bacteria in a person diagnosed with listeriosis is to check its DNA. Cut it into small pieces, comparing their size and length similar to DNA fingerprinting on drops of blood.
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