Friday, February 12, 2010

Marler Clark Holds USDA To Their Food Safety Mission, Legally (Part 4)

Part 1: Shiga Toxin: One Of Man's Most Lethal Poisons
Part 2: E. coli O157:H7 Just One Among Many Shiga Toxin-Making Bacteria
Part 3: Shiga Travels To Kidney. Commits Lethal Deed.

On October 5, 2009, the law firm of Marler Clark LLP, PS, submitted a Petition to the USDA "requesting the administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to issue an interpretive rule declaring all enterohemorrhagic Shiga toxin-producing serotypes of Escherichia coli, including non-O157 serotypes, to be adulterants:"

Petition for an Interpretive Rule Declaring all enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing Serotypes of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. § 601(m)(1)

On December 14, 2009, Marler Clark submitted their First Notice requesting an update.

On January 11, 2010, Marler Clark submitted their Second Notice requesting an update.

On January 28, 2010 - Marler Clark submitted their Third and Final Notice requesting an update, stating:
"If, on that date [March 1, 2010], I have not heard from the agency, I will file a lawsuit against the agency for failure to meet its duty under federal law."
That's 16 days away, almost 5 months from the date Marler Clark submitted their Petition. More importantly, it's over 15 years from the date the USDA/FSIS began to act proactively by declaring just one shiga toxin-making bacteria - E. coli O157:H7 - to be an adulterant.

Fifteen years is a long time for an agency, FSIS, whose primary mission is food safety, to drop the other shoe and declare not just one, but all disease-producing, shiga-making E. coli to be substances that should not appear in our food.

Update: FSIS response from February 5:
"Based on the information provided in your petition, we have determined that it qualifies for expedited review."


Bill Marler said...

FSIS did respond to our petition and letter in the last few days. We are working on a response.

caulfieldkid said...

Do we have a good idea of what the outcome to a lawsuit would be? I assume Marler thinks there is a good chance for change.

BTW - I like the new comments caveat.


Bix said...

shaun, I don't know. Part of Marler's Petition was that FSIS conduct, not just a review, but an expedited review. FSIS said they will do that:

"FSIS is reviewing your petition ahead of other pending petitions that request actions that are not related to food safety."

There's another action that FSIS could take that isn't related to non-O157:H7 STECs, and that's to require testing of large sections of meat, primals I think they're called, intended for whole cuts like steaks. They aren't initially intended to be made into ground beef, but some end up that way.

Anyway ... why I've been reading/writing about this ... E. coli that make shiga are bad news. Shiga is bad news. It's not run-of-the-mill diarrhea, for some people at least. It's becoming a cost of having to live with CAFOs and high-output meat production in this country.

And it's not just meat. When E. coli is found in lettuce and spinach, shiga-making E. coli that live in animal intestines, it's not coming from the lettuce and spinach, it's coming from run off from factory farms.