Poison cantaloupes, courtesy U.S. FDA
posted at 1/11/2012 8:53 AM EST
Writing in the Denver Post of January 11, Michael Booth calls attention to lack of FDA food regulations as a significant element in a September, 2011, outbreak of Listeria spread through cantaloupes, poisoning at least 146 people and killing 31 of them. FDA had issued only "guidance," which was ignored. [ Report on Listeria outbreak blames Jensen Farms and third-party auditors, at http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_19716704 ]
During the Reagan administration, FDA sleazebags began frequently publishing so-called "guidance" documents instead of regulations. The advantage of a "guidance" to regulated industries was that it was a mere option, not a requirement. The advantage to FDA staff was much less work, no public notice and easy evasion of their responsibilities. In the event of problems, FDA staff could always say, "We warned you." FDA was then led by Dr. Arthur Hayes, Jr., whose conflicts of interest were later exposed, leading to his abrupt resignation.
As with many topics involving public safety, current FDA sleazebags actually wrote only a "draft guidance" on processing melons. [ Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards of melons; Draft Guidance; Contains Nonbinding Recommendations, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, July 31, 2009, at http://www.food-label-compliance.com/Sites/5/Downloads/USFDA-Draft-Guidance-MELONS-issued-073109-complete-text.pdf ]
Like many agricultural processors, Jensen Farms, producer of the poison cantaloupes, employed a totally unregulated "third-party auditor," Primus Labs, to check on processing safety. Primus Labs, in turn, said while it looks for violations of FDA regulations it otherwise "does not have the expertise to determine which practices should be pushed by industry." As far as Primus Labs and Jensen Farms were concerned, an FDA "draft guidance" on melons meant what it said: "Contains Nonbinding Recommendations; Draft--Not for implementation." [ Dan Flynn, Congressional probe finds many to blame for Listeria cantaloupe outbreak, Food Safety News, January 11, 2012, at http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/01/congress-gets-report-on-listeria-investigation/ ]
It is common for FDA "draft guidance" documents to remain on file for years, never even made into "guidance" documents, and for "guidance" documents to persist for decades, never made into regulations. In this instance, current FDA sleazebags have tried to shut the barn door and cover their rumps with yet another such document. [ Guidance for Industry: Letter to firms that grow, harvest, sort, pack, process or ship fresh cantaloupe; Contains Nonbinding Recommendations; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, November, 2011, at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/ProduceandPlanProducts/UCM278474.pdf ]