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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Let the Diner Beware 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.: The Bush FDA doesn't spend all its time approving subcutaneous tracking devices. It also tends to the equally important task of placating the mad-cow lobby:
Telling consumers where their meat, fruit, and vegetables came from seemed such a good idea to US ranchers and farmers in competition with imports that two years ago Congress ordered the food industry to do it. But meatpackers and food processors fought the law from the start, and newly emboldened Republicans now plan to repeal it before Thanksgiving.

As part of the 2002 farm bill, country-of-origin labeling was supposed to have gone into effect this fall. Last year Congress postponed the measure until 2006. Now, House Republicans are trying to wipe it off the books as part of a spending bill they plan to finish this month . . . .

President Bush never supported mandatory labeling. Chances for repealing the law improved when [Tom] Daschle, still his party's leader in the Senate, was defeated Election Day . . . .

Food processors and other opponents of mandatory labeling say they are amenable to voluntary labels. Grocery Manufacturers Association spokeswoman Stephanie Childs cited the government's voluntary standards for labeling organic food and said, ''That's the sort of thing we should be looking toward."
The state of Kansas, for example, is proudly (and voluntarily!) boasting that Jayhawk beef is, in all likelihood, to the best of our knowledge, probably BSE-free -- for now:
An inconclusive test that has officials concerned about a second possible case of mad cow disease in the United States did not come from a Kansas animal, a state livestock health official said Thursday.

U.S. Agriculture Department released few details about the possible new case of mad cow disease and refused to say where the possibly diseased animal was found.

However, Kansas Animal Health Commissioner George Teagarden said, "It's not Kansas" . . . .

The United States had its first case of mad cow disease 11 months ago, and Japan is still maintaining a ban against U.S. beef.
UPDATE (via Cursor): Holy cow, it's FDA Day at King of Zembla. Here's another testimonial to the public-health benefits of voluntary self-regulation:
The Food and Drug Administration found serious problems of bacterial contamination at an influenza vaccine plant in England in 2003, 16 months before British regulators effectively closed the site and impounded its flu shots because of fears they were tainted.

Those earlier problems were among many revelations in about 100 pages of documents released yesterday by a House committee looking into how the United States lost about half this winter's flu vaccine supply just as the season for giving the shots began.

The documents, which include FDA inspection reports, letters and e-mails, also revealed that the agency was nine months late in giving Chiron Corp., the owner of the plant, a detailed report of the problems it found and then rebuffed the company's efforts to learn more about what it could do to fix things. At the same time, FDA managers overruled its inspection team and made its fixes voluntary rather than mandatory.

The new information appears to undercut the agency's assertions that it had no reason to suspect that past safety problems at the plant had persisted and might threaten its huge production capacity.

About 48 million doses of vaccine from Chiron's plant outside Liverpool were withheld from the U.S. market early last month after the British equivalent of the FDA denied the company a license to sell them.

The United States expected to have about 100 million doses of flu vaccine this winter. Instead there will be 61 million doses, with some not arriving until January. The shortage has caused widespread public anxiety and has forced health departments nationwide to laboriously reallocate vaccine after much of it already had been distributed.

Yesterday's revelations drew distinctly partisan responses at a congressional hearing.

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