Friday, January 30, 2009

Peanuts Anyone? The E. Coli Republicans Are Back-- And They Have A Bridge To Sell You Too

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Can Obama revive it? Not with fake post-partisan bonhomie with those who purposely destroyed it

When I woke up this morning I saw a crawl across the bottom of CNN that the plant in Georgia where the tainted peanut butter was being made knew it was sending out tainted products that could-- and did-- kill people. According to yesterday's Washington Post "Inspection reports of a Georgia peanut processing plant at the center of a massive, nationwide salmonella outbreak indicate that the company operated in unsanitary conditions and knowingly shipped products contaminated with strains of salmonella." Among the highlights of the reports released yesterday:

• A sink in one of the peanut butter rooms was used interchangeably to clean hands and utensils and to wash out mops.

• The "wash room" was found to be a veritable horror show of problems: a "slimy, black-brown residue," identified as mold, was found on a conveyor and on the walls; a live cockroach and several of his dead compatriots were also discovered.

• The company's cooler room also had mold on the ceiling and walls. Inspectors spotted water stains leading down to where finished product was stored.

• An ingredient staging area was found "dirty with a heavy build-up of different powdery ingredients on all exposed surfaces.''

• The lack of a ventilation system at the facility allowed for contamination to occur and officials did not check the effectiveness of temperature, volume and belt speed during the peanut roasting process.

• Bacteria-laden raw peanuts were stored next to roasted peanuts, increasing the risk of contamination, and peanut products were stored next to salmonella-contaminated floors and cracks.

Contemptible, right? I've been writing about it here at DWT and Orange Clouds has been trying to rouse people at Daily Kos (especially after she discovered that most of the more than 500 sick people are children under ten, many of them ineligible for SCHIP medical care because the same Republican slimebuckets who forced through the kind of deregulation had been holding up SCHIP legislation. In his newest book-- which gets a five-star recommendation from DWT-- The Wrecking Crew-- How Conservatives Rule, Thomas Frank writes at some length about how Bush's contemptible Republican Food and Drug Administration was forced to embraced some harebrained "market-based government" dogma and turned into a tool of campaign contributors, rather than a protector of the public. "It is now," he wrote, "an arm of the immensely profitable pharmaceutical industry."
The FDA's top officers are largely drawn from Big Pharma, its drug evaluation operation is funded in part by the drug companies themselves, and on numerous occasions the agency has tried to silence critics of drugs that have made it through the approval process... Through the smoke and the wreckage of the regulatory state we dimly perceive the approach of a new and unfamiliar America. This colossus is not the product of some awesome and irresistible force like "globalization," but rather of decades of hard right-wing work, of careful bureaucratic sabotage and an occasional shot of lobbyist money. The accomplishment is unmistakable: productivity gallops along, but with workers' organizations out of the picture, only the people at the very top benefit from the advance. For the rest of us there are sudden outbreaks of deadly food poisoning. Train derailments. Deadly mine accidents. Dangerous passenger jets. Tap water that is unfit to drink. Mysterious workplace plagues that, upon investigation, could have been easily avoided at only a slight expense to management. But all of it made possible-- unavoidable, even-- by a philosophy of government that regards business as its only important constituent.

Of course, Georgia isn't the only place with filthy and unsanitary conditions processing food. As I was rolling into San Francisco today, over the East Bay Bridge, I was thinking about how inferior Chinese steel was already cracking in the new bridge and that we could well wind up with the kind of collapse the Chinese had last August when Three dozen people were killed as a brand new bridge over the Tuo River in Fenghuang (Hunan Province) tumbled into the river.

How are they with peanuts? Glad you asked. It's just like Georgia.
You'd think the Peanut Corporation of America was headquartered in China. They discovered salmonella twelve times over the past two years at a Georgia plant, yet they chose to ship out contaminated peanut butter regardless. Sounds a lot like the Chinese dairy company Sanlu that knowingly sold melamine-laced milk powder. In both cases, kids died. In both cases, the regulators were none the wiser. U.S. food processors aren't required to submit lab test results to the FDA. Even when the results may warn of an outbreak that could kill people. Neither are Chinese food processors.

China's system is broken, and so is ours. There are eerie similarities between the two. Hamstrung regulators, where agencies lack the budgets and the legal mandate to enforce quality control. Callous companies that refuse to police their own products -- even when it could prove fatal to consumers. And a population in the dark and at risk.

Unfortunately, both China and America are part of the same food and drug supply. Remember the Chinese blood thinner that killed American patients in American hospitals? We import more and more of our food and drugs from a country that can't police its own quality. The obvious fact that we can't is a Big Problem. Food and drug safety should be elevated to the priority of national security. China and America must work together immediately to untangle the Gordian knot that binds us together before more people die.

It also turns out that our fine trading partners across the Pacific also send us poisonous honey-- and half the honey we import-- and that's 2/3s of what we consume-- comes from China, complete with chloramphenicol or some other illegal antibiotics.
Try to fix anything that the Republicans have so carefully crafted in their war against working families, and they all stick together, vote in a bloc and, along with their host of media shills, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy off the GOP and Blue Dog politicians, scream "socialism" whatever nonsense they think will distract voters from their record of incredible failure and disaster.


UPDATE: BAR DOOR KIND OF THING... BUT WITH REPUBLICANS OUT OF POWER MAYBE THERE WILL BE LESS MARKET-BASED DEATHS OF CONSUMERS AND WORKERS GOING FORWARD

The Georgia peanut-processing plant from whence sprang the salmonella outbreak in now the subject of a criminal investigation. That's good. And President Obama "pledged stricter oversight of food safety to prevent breakdowns in inspections." That's good too. Part of the Republican ideology is that regulatory agencies work to protect the interests of Big Business. That has worked out terribly for everyone-- except the very rich, who, overall, have done far better than 99% of Americans in every way you can think of.

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4 Comments:

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Lee said...

Howie,

My sister lives in NYC and at least once a month my dog Gabbie and I go to visit her and her dog I always bring peanut butter dog biscuits for my sisters dog. Happy tails..which are on the FDAs list Anyway 2 weeks ago we woke up in the middle of the night and my sisters bed was covered in poop and her dog was shivering. Her dog had salmonella. The dog was lucky and didn't die.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe the Republicans who have ruined our country.

 
At 2:37 PM, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Hey, what are you complaining about? The producers saved $3.00 per drum - more profits! What's a little salmonella between global trading partners?

You can hardly buy peanuts, cashews, or apple juice anymore that isn't grown/produced in China or SE Asia. We need COOL, consumer education and revolt against the Global AgriCorps who would sell you slickly packaged sewage if they could.

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Here is a link you may not have seen:

Weeks before the earliest signs of a national salmonella outbreak that now has been traced to peanuts from a Georgia processing plant, peanuts exported by the same company were found to be contaminated and were returned to the United States by Canadian inspectors.
Bad Peanuts Found Before Outbreak

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Each year, there are approximately 73,000 cases of E. Coli. This number may seem low in comparison to other infections, but in knowing how preventable it is; it is a big number. After reading through your website, it is clear that your organization has the same passion for E. Coli awareness, as Disease.com. Here, at Disease.com (a non profit website dedicated to the preventions and treatments of diseases) we realize how important establishing awareness is. That is why we have worked with several elite non profit organizations in the past. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. Together, we can turn 73,000 into 0.If you want more information on that please email me back with the subject line as your URL.

 

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