OCTOBER 07, 2011
In an amusing twist, food contaminated with deadly bacteria is being sold at a Washington D.C. farmers market right outside the headquarters of the government agency in charge of enforcing the nation’s food safety rules.It would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. An open-air market sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) features goods contaminated with two of the most common causes of food poisoning, salmonella and campylobacter. Both are deadly bacteria found in poultry, which ironically, is inspected by the USDA.The shameful discovery was made by a group of college student journalists researching food safety for an impressive investigative project that’s been posted on the internet. Their work has exposed the government’s perpetual failure to adequately secure the nation’s food supply, from domestic poultry, eggs and produce to imported seafood which is notoriously “filthy or tainted.”One of the probes focuses on the USDA’s weekly farmers market, a popular destination for government employees and tourists to shop for fresh produce, poultry and baked goods. The agency sponsors the event adjacent to its headquarters. It’s part of a government-wide effort, led by Michelle Obama, to promote healthy eating. In fact, thanks to the First Lady’s obsession with inner city obesity, the USDA has spent millions of dollars to bring farmers markets to urban neighborhoods across the U.S.It’s unclear if the other USDA-sponsored farmers markets sell infected food as well. In the one outside its D.C. headquarters some of the raw chicken for sale has salmonella, according to laboratory tests conducted as part of the journalists’ investigation. At a farmers market a few blocks away, near the White House, chicken was found to be tainted with campylobacter bacteria. Of interesting note is that it’s the same farmers market where Michelle Obama launched her heavily promoted, healthy eating campaign a few years ago.This may seem unbelievable considering the Obama Administration is obsessed with food safety and, in fact the president signed a sweeping law (Food Safety Modernization Act—FSMA) this year creating the first-ever mandatory national safety standards for produce. The administration says the measure will keep the U.S. food supply safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.When Obama signed FSMA, his Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner pointed out that the idea of prevention was not new. As an example she said her agency had established prevention-oriented standardsand rules for seafood, juice and eggs and that the USDA had done the same for meat and poultry. That was back in January.
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