Bill Marler, American Food Safety attorney and advocate, came out with his list of the Top 9 Food Safety Stories of 2008:
9. Westland/Hallmark recall due to downer cows. The largest meat recall in US history. 143 million lbs of beef was recalled from Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co, after a video made by the Humane Society showed workers using abusive techniques to make ‘downer cows’-sick animals unable to stand up on their own- pass the pre-slaughter inspection.
8. Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Infections caused by Contaminated Dry Dog Food. This outbreak resulted in hundreds of humans and a few dogs to become sick. After handling pet food, pet owners should wash their hands immediately, and infants should be kept away from pet feeding areas.
7. Spinach and lettuce-borne outbreaks. Resulted in the FDA approving irradiation of the leafy greens as existing sanitation techniques were not deemed sufficient. The debate continues about the safety of food products that have been irradiated but these products will be labelled to allow consumers to make their own decisions.
6. Frozen, uncooked entrees. Consumers were infected with Salmonella after consuming entrees that contained raw chicken products and were NOT supposed to be cooked in the microwave.
5. Listeria in Maple Leaf Deli Meats. This one hit close to home, killing 20 Canadians and causing hundreds, maybe thousands, to be ill.
4. There are those that insist that raw milk has numerous healthful benefits destroyed by pasteurization, and others that state that the bacteria in raw milk can cause illnesses, especially in children. Selling unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada, Scotland and Australia. 28 US States allow the sale of raw milk. In both Canada and the US, raw milk cheeses that are aged for more than 61 days are permitted. In Asia, rural Europe and Africa, raw unpasteurized milk is typical.
3. E. Coli. In addition to the continued rise of E. coli O157:H7 contamination in meat and other products like leafy greens and raw dairy, 2008 saw a (non-O157) E. coli outbreak in Oklahoma causing over 300 people to fall ill and one death. Non-O157:H7 E-Coli’s are not listed yet and not tested for, but are still making people very, very sick.
2. Salmonella Saintpaul in jalapeno and Serano peppers (and not tomatoes as first believed) caused 1,442 people to be ill in 43 states, D.C., and Canada. Using the Center for Disease Control’s math that estimates that for every documented case of Salmonella in the US, another 38.5 go unreported , the total number sickened was probably closer to 50,000.
1. Melamine in Chinese food products. We first heard about melamine in Chinese infant formula, resulting in 294,000 sick infants, hundreds hospitalized, and at least six babies dying. We then heard that melamine was found in candy, coffee, tea, dairy, animal food and lots of other Chinese products, resulting in recalls, bans and now the US and Canada testing for melamine in our own products. According to Marler, melamine is pervasive, global, and it’s going to be in our food supply for a long time to come.