Tuesday, September 13, 2011

America's Dangerous Food Safety System

Ten-year-old Shiloh Johnson lay in a hospital bed for 43 days as medical tubes protruding from her chest slowly drained suffocating fluid from her heart and lungs. Each day brought a new challenge, many of them life threatening.

Her veins went flat, requiring nurses to insert an IV. Her kidneys went into failure, requiring dialysis. She suffered cardiac arrest, and had to be revived. For three weeks she slipped into a coma, unaware her mother was sitting alongside her day and night in utter disbelief that a simple trip through a restaurant buffet line could wreak such havoc on her healthy, vibrant child.

Shiloh and several hundred others who ate at a restaurant in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, back in 2008 were the victims of a virulent e. coli bacterium known as 0111, one of six strains that food safety experts say are increasingly appearing in meats and other foods across the globe.

Despite the bacteria's devastating effects in outbreaks from Oklahoma to Japan, the Obama administration took more than two years to officially recognize the six strains as something dangerous that should be screened by federal meat inspectors. Salmonella—which can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and which is common in poultry and meat—also has routinely escaped monitoring by federal meat inspectors. An antibiotic-resistant form of salmonella was at the center of a massive recall of turkey meat this summer

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