A single food inspection agency: Will it make food safer? Will fewer people get sick?

When it comes to the safety of the food supply, I generally ignore the chatter from Washington and company-types. If a proposal does emerge, such as the creation of a single food inspection agency, I ask, Will it actually make food safer? Will fewer people get sick?

vomit.toiletThat was valid in 2008, the last time Durbin and DeLauro introduced a bill for a single food agency in the U.S., and still valid today.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois plan to introduce the Safe Food Act of 2015, which would create a single, independent federal food safety agency.

The fragmented Federal food safety system and outdated laws preclude an integrated, system-wide approach to preventing foodborne illness,” it says.

Currently most of the responsibility for food safety lies with FDA. USDA oversees meat, poultry and processed eggs.

The bill would merge food safety oversight into a single agency, providing authority to recall unsafe food and improve inspections of imported food.

“Food safety is a critical public health issue,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “But right now, responsibility for food safety is scattered among 15 different agencies. We need one independent agency focused on the safety of the entire food supply.”

“A single food safety agency would allow us to better focus our resources where the greatest risks lie,” Waldrop said. “The Safe Food Act is a strong vision for the future of food safety.”

Maybe.

Or not.

Countries, states, counties and cities have different forms of restaurant inspection oversight and disclosure. It’s a mess, but there’s no clear evidence that one approach works better than another.

With national food safety systems, Canada went single agency in 1997, but it’s got problems, as do Ireland, the U.K., and others.

I’m not against a single food agency (although the U.S. was founded on a series of checks and balances) but would like to see some evidence for the claims that are going to spew forth in the future, based on the rhetoric of 1998, repeated here:

vomit_here_by_seedpix_at_flickrA 1998 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office claimed the U.S. is lagging behind other countries – countries that have single food inspection systems.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said,

“Today’s GAO report shows that America ranked eighth out of eight countries — dead last — in terms of national food safety systems.”

There was no such ranking in the report. There was no ranking at all in the report.

Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) said,

“This GAO report highlights how effectively a single food safety agency could protect our food supply. … By focusing on the entire food supply chain, placing primary responsibility for food safety on producers, and ensuring that food imports meet equivalent safety standards. …”

The U.S. system already does that. And the report says nothing about how a single food inspection agency could better accomplish such tasks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says,

“The GAO report also shows that creating a unified food safety program is technologically and economically feasible, and most important, effective in helping to reduce foodborne illness.”

There were no measures of effectiveness for any of the single food inspection agencies, other than whether public opinion or confidence in the shiny, happy new agencies increased over time based on self-reported surveys. A few advertisements could have accomplished that.

There was certainly no mention of any agency reducing the incidence of foodborne illness. The seven countries studied – Canada, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands – said they reorganized their food inspection agencies to improve effectiveness and efficiency; not one said to improve public health and have fewer sick people.

cat vomitThe GAO report — Selected Countries’ Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Foodborne Illness – did say:

“The burden for food safety in most of the selected countries lies primarily with food producers, rather than with inspectors, although inspectors play an active role in overseeing compliance. This principle applies to both domestic and imported products.”

That’s good.

“None of the selected countries had comprehensively evaluated its reorganized food safety system … Most of the selected countries use proxy measures, such as public opinion surveys, to assess their effectiveness. Public opinion in several countries has improved in recent years.”

That’s bad.

In Canada, “At the consumer end of the spectrum, the food safety agency educates Canadians about safe food-handling practices and various food safety risks through its Web site, food safety fact sheets, and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, a group of industry, consumer, and government organizations that jointly develop and implement a national program to educate consumers on how to safely handle food.”

That’s awful.

To summarize: no rankings, no measures of effectiveness, and not much fact-checking.

Should there be a single food inspection agency in the U.S.? Maybe. But will it enhance the safety of the food supply? Will it mean fewer sick people?

Coldplay is worst thing to happen to music, and Gwyneth is worst thing to happen to food; maybe that’s why they hooked up

There was this one time, that saint Gwyneth made everyone throw up, and shockingly, it wasn’t from the overwhelming nauseous feeling they got from hearing Gwyneth Paltrow talk about how perfect Gwyneth Paltrow is all evening.

"Mortdecai" Los Angeles premiere***NO DAILY MAIL SALES***It was from food!

That’s right, famous cookbook author Gwyneth Paltrow admitted on The Rachael Ray Show (via Glamour) Friday morning that she once made a meal that made everyone fill the 17th century gilded French porcelain toilets in her home with hot barf. Now, I’ve read both of Goopy’s cookbooks, and I’d say that roughly 79% of what I saw gave me the heaves (so many vegetables and not ONE recipe for Frito Pie). But according to Goopy, it wasn’t because she was serving her guests some kind of disgusting pickled heirloom kholrabi over mashed sunchoke bullshit; it was because she screwed up the recipe for eggplant parmesan.What do you think?

“I went to the store and bought some eggplant, a jar of tomato sauce, and some really rubbery mozzarella cheese. I didn’t know that when you cook eggplant, you first have to sweat it to get all the bitter juice out, and I didn’t realize that you also have to bread eggplant parmesan and fry it before. So I put slices of raw eggplant with jarred tomato sauce and mozzarella. And everyone threw up.”

What do you think?

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Being poor sucks, especially for foodborne illness

Foodborne illness is a major cause of morbidity and loss of productivity in developed nations. Although low socioeconomic status (SES) is generally associated with negative health outcomes, its impact on foodborne illness is poorly understood.

vomit.toiletWe conducted a systematic review to examine the association between SES and laboratory-confirmed illness caused by eight important foodborne pathogens.

We completed this systematic review using PubMed for all papers published between 1 January 1980 and 1 January 2013 that measured the association between foodborne illness and SES in highly developed countries and identified 16 studies covering four pathogens. The effect of SES varied across pathogens: the majority of identified studies for Campylobacter, salmonellosis, and E. coli infection showed an association between high SES and illness. The single study of listeriosis showed illness was associated with low SES. A reporting bias by SES could not be excluded. SES should be considered when targeting consumer-level public health interventions for foodborne pathogens.

 The impact of socioeconomic status on foodborne illness in high-income countries: a systematic review

Epidemiology and Infection [ahead of print]

K.L. Newman, J.S. Leon, P.A. Rebolledo and E. Scallan

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9528372&fileId=S0950268814003847

Australian Open tennis player from New Jersey vomits during match

American tennis player Christina McHale was caught spewing her guts onto the court at the Australian Open multiple times during her match Monday but still managed to win her first round match.

Video of the 22-year-old from Teaneck, New Jersey bending over and throwing up multiple times, which ESPN replayed in slow motion, is being viewed by many online. But the tennis star did have a sense of humor about it after the gutsy match ended.

“That was one of the craziest matches of my life… Sorry for the overshare! Thanks for your amazing support, so happy :) #ausopen15″ she posted on Instagram.

McHale, who is ranked 54th by the WTA, rallied back from the incident and defeated Stephanie Foretz, of France, 6-4, 1-6, 12-10.]

173 sick: Swedish school suffers vomiting bug outbreak

As the annual winter vomiting bug season starts to kick in it’s the Tofta high school in the south which is bearing the brunt of it so far. 

vomit.2In total 173 people who attend or work at the school have been affected by the bug. Even the headmaster hasn’t been spared.

“It struck last Friday but now I’m back at work,” headmaster Tobias Fahlén told the Expressen newspaper.

Parents reported that the bug began to take hold on Friday, with many stating that their children began vomiting uncontrollably. Several have asked the school to investigate the outbreak which has led to deserted classrooms.

As a result the school has now got in contact with the disease control centre in nearby Malmö. The centre advised the school to do some extra cleaning in the toilets and school kitchen to help combat the vomiting bug.

An epidemiologist with the disease control centre who is working with the school said it was most likely a vomiting bug that was ravaging the school, and not food poisioning as some parents had suspected.

How to barf: Keep your face upright to make vomiting less uncomfortable

One of the more memorable lines from Chapman years ago was, “I’ve never had barf come out my nose.”

vomit.family.guyA few years later, he said, “it happened.”

According to Eric Ravenscraft of Life Hacker, we’re all barfing the wrong way.

The next time you feel like you need to vomit, try facing straight forward (perhaps using a bucket) to avoid uncomfortable drainage in nasal passages.

Most people (and, indeed, nearly every TV and movie depiction of the act) use a toilet or a sink when vomiting is necessary. While this makes for quick cleanup, it also requires you to point your face directly downwards. Combined with the upwards flow of your stomach contents, your nasal passages can become affected. Keeping your face upright by using a bucket (or having really, really good aim) can avoid that burning sensation and uncomfortable cleanup. Alternatively, if you don’t have a bucket handy or simply can’t manage that self control, holding or plugging your nose can help minimize this effect.

Saturday barf: Tiger, football, airplane

It is called barfblog.

First up, Tiger Woods doing his best Ben Chapman impersonation on the first tee at his charity tournament — the Hero World Challenge — and he still made birdie.

Next, Arizona center Carter Wood vomits just before snapping ball during a barf-inducing loss to Oregon.

Finally, a US Airways plane was forced to land when 16 people aboard it started vomiting and suffering from red eyes.

The entire crew of 14 and two passengers were taken ill on the plane which made an emergency landing in Rome on Friday.

The stench of vomit could be smelt from the cabin, alerting those on board to the problem.

Harry Styles explains roadside barfing

I don’t care about the music of Harry Styles or One Direction, but the pin-up has a novel explanation for barfing in California a couple of weeks ago:

Harry Styles.vomit I’d been on a hike. I’d been on a very long hike. It was about three weeks ago, so I’m fine now.”

After snaps of the singer’s messy incident were released, one devotee decided to create a shrine to Styles in order to commemorate the place he vomited in with a banner that read: “Harry Styles threw-up here 10-12-14″.

Another dedicated fan reportedly scooped up his vomit and sold it online.

US pro football player barfs on field before play

I loved playing linebacker in high-school football.

After all those years of kids shooting pucks at my head covered only with a lousy plastic face mass as a goalie in hockey, it was somehow, equitable.

Lawrence Timmons.vomitI never barfed during a football game (but did before hockey games).

I was watching the Pittsburg Steelers-Houston Texans football game Tuesday morning (Monday night football across the pond) in the background as Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons starting barfing before a play in the second quarter.

Down 13-0, Timmons lined up in his usual spot at inside linebacker when he began to vomit before the snap.

As Timmons jogged off the field he continued to vomit, grossing out the Monday night audience.

Some fans even posted a Vine of Timmons getting sick, just in case you missed the chance to be grossed out.

As for Steeler fans, things got better as they erased a 13-0 deficit and won 30-23.