You always knew it was a little slimy, and what it did to the sailorman was kind of creepy – but who thought it would kill you? Well, spinach won’t be your only worry in the produce section if Congress follows through with plans to preempt state laws.

popeye.gifA virulent E.Coli strain infected America’s spinach supply the last month, with the first case reported on August 23rd. After one subsequent death two weeks later, another death possibly due to this E.Coli strain, and over 100 reported cases nationwide, do you wonder just how safe their food supply is. The answer is: not very, according to a former FDA official.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on September 19th that 50% of those reported sick from this bacterial strain were hospitalized – more than double what is seen in other E.coli outbreaks. Perhaps more frightening, three times the “normal” number of consumers in this sort of outbreak were inflicted with kidney failure (hemolytic-uremic syndrome), resulting in a painful death, a transplant, a lifetime of dialysis or a stringent medication regime. Despite these dangerous risks, the FDA only issued a voluntary recall of spinach, and this over 3 weeks after the beginning of the outbreak.

What may be more astounding to many Americans is that the Food and Drug Administration sees many of these cases each year, and issues little or no warning to the general public. There have been 20 episodes of a spinach or lettuce-borne food poisoning outbreak has occurred since 1995. The FDA is the same agency whose so-called drug oversight released such deadly drugs as Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra onto the market, without reviewing the research submitted to them by the drugs’ manufacturers themselves. Clearly the agency has lost sight of its mission.

Lack of Consumer Protection

The recent outbreak of the E. coli virus in the nation’s spinach crop once again highlights the FDA’s inability to protect American consumers. After one death and hundreds of illnesses, the FDA’s only course of action was a voluntary recall; a decision that leaves millions of Americans at risk. And the risk to consumers may soon increase. This past March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.4167, the National Uniformity in Food Act: Senator Burr (R-NC) has since introduced a companion bill, S.3128, in the U.S. Senate. The bill preempts over 200 state food safety laws, including California’s landmark Proposition 65, which guards against such substances as cancer-causing chemicals, lead and arsenic poisoning from being stocked on store shelves.

For Colorado, the following statutory protections would be preempted by the “National Uniformity in Food Act:”
Statutory provisions allowing the state to adopt tolerances for food additives and color additives that are more protective of human health than the applicable federal tolerances. (Colorado Food and Drug Act, § 25-5-413(2)). Statutory provision governing the safety of milk. (Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 25, Article 5.5, Part 1, §§25-5-101- 25-5-117). Statutory provision governing the safety of food in restaurants and other food service establishments. (Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 25, Article 4, Part 16, §§25-4-1601-25-4-1612). Law governing shellfish safety (Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 25, Article 4, Part 18, §§25-4-1803- 25-4-1805)

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