Public Policy

Contaminated Cheese and Chicken

One person dies from listeria linked to soft cheeses. Two people have been hospitalized and one has died in an ongoing listeria outbreak purportedly linked to Hispanic-style soft cheeses. The three cases were all reported in Washington state. The cheeses allegedly involved, made by Yakima, Washington-based Queseria Bendita, have been voluntarily recalled, and the company has temporarily stopped producing and distributing cheese. The US CDC and the FDA, along with state health officials, are continuing to investigate.

USDA takes new steps to address bacterial contamination in poultry. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture has proposed new federal standards aiming to reduce the incidence of salmonella and campylobacter bacteria in ground chicken and turkey products and raw chicken parts. According to a January 26 Federal Register notice, the FSIS will begin sampling raw chicken parts to gain information on these two bacteria types and will begin a process of routine sampling throughout the year to see whether food establishments are effectively addressing the incidence of Salmonella and, where applicable, Campylobacter on chicken and turkey carcasses and products derived from these carcasses. The USDA hopes to reduce the occurrence of these bacteria by 30 percent to 37 percent and to prevent 50,000 food-borne illnesses per year.

Egg producers challenge California statute concerning living conditions for hens. In an argument to be heard on February 2 by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, California egg farmers are challenging a new state statute that requires that hens whose eggs are sold in California be able to spread their wings and turn around in their cages. The law imposes a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each violation. The egg farmers argue the law is unconstitutionally vague. The law took effect on January 1.

Two Democrats on the Hill are calling for a new agency to regulate food safety. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) have drafted the Safe Food Act of 2015, which would create a new, independent agency to supervise food safety, a task that these members say is now divided among 15 different agencies. Durbin and DeLauro say the reforms proposed in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 were only the beginning and that much more needs to be done to protect Americans from food contamination.

Read more about food and beverage law in Food and Beverage News and Trends.

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