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A String Of Cheese Recalls And The Future Of Food Safety

This article is more than 10 years old.
Is your cheese platter safe?
Is your cheese platter safe?

Unrelated cheese recalls this month have included gorgonzola by Mauri Brand and sold at Costco and queso fresco from a company called Del Bueno. Queso fresco and other fresh, unpasteurized cheeses are beloved by foodies for their flavor. But they are often fingered for causing foodborne illness.

The FDA has been accused of being overzealous when it comes to raw cheese, prompting at least one recent protest by a small farmer, but regulators say it's safety, not size, that matters in a recall. Food safety attorney Bill Marler has a 2010 hit list of the recalls associated with raw cheese and raw milk right here.

With all the recent outbreaks of food-borne illness, Marler, an old pal of mine from Seattle, is doing quite well representing victims. He first attained local fame back in the early 1990s, winning a $15. 6 million settlement (a record for Washington State) on behalf of a little girl seriously sickened by a Jack In The Box hamburger. In many ways, Marler made the little bacterium E. coli a household name. Recent;y, he launched his own newspaper, The Food Safety News. Here's my Wall Street Journal profile of his food safety consulting firm, which he calls "Outbreak."

Speaking of food safety, everyone should read this op-ed by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser in The New York Times today urging the Senate to pass a Food Safety Bill to give regulators some marginal power to protect the nation's food supply.

The bill would, for the first time, give the F.D.A., which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food, the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food. The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.

Last summer, when thousands of people were infected with salmonella from filthy, vermin-infested henhouses in Iowa, Americans were outraged to learn that the F.D.A. had never conducted a food safety inspection at these huge operations that produce billions of eggs a year. The new rules might have kept those people — mainly small children and the elderly — from getting sick.

Marler is working with some senate staffers to help broker a deal on the food safety legislation, but he's not terribly optimistic. "If I had to be a betting person, I would bet it would not pass," he told me, "but then I'll just be busier than ever next year."

This program aired on November 29, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.


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