If E. Coli contamination in peppers (or was it tomatoes?) was the big food safety scare of last year, 2009 is shaping up to be the year of the toxic peanut. By now everyone who pays attention to the news knows that there’s a massive recall of peanut products because hundreds of people have been sickened by Salmonellosis. It doesn’t take many more accounts than this one from last week’s NY Times – relating the experience of a boy infected by the peanuts - to make it a big deal.
“He was just in screaming pain,” said his mother, Gabrielle Meunier of South Burlington, Vt. “He said, ‘It hurts so bad, I want to die’ — something you don’t expect to hear out of a 7-year-old’s mouth.”
Now, here’s another recent story about a health warning involving salmonella – and raw milk. A dairy that sells raw milk commercially was warned by the state of Pennsylvania to stop doing it, at least temporarily, because tests shows salmonella in the milk. Why?
"Salmonella is a disease that thrives very well in water, so a source might have been water tanks that haven't been cleaned out, or maybe there's a bird or rodent problem that could have caused it to show up in the milk," according to the PA Department of Agriculture.
I’ve opined several times (in July, and earlier last April) in the past year about the fact that, well, the facts surrounding raw milk as a potential source of life-threatening illnesses are well-documented. And at the same time, the facts, such as they are, about raw milk as a health supplement are dubious at best. And my columns routinely have drawn the raw milk fanatics into the blogosphere to defend their choices.
Thus, my latest rhetorical query on this topic is related to developments like those reported in the NY Times article, where people like Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois say:
“We can no longer forgive or explain what’s happening with food safety in this country.”
Or this story from the Wall Street Journal, where the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman, is going to hold a hearing next week specifically on the Peanut Corporation of America because Waxman is:
“extremely troubled by reports that the plant tested positive for salmonella numerous times but nothing was done to ensure that the product did not go on the market.”
So here we have major lawmakers on Capitol Hill freaking out about salmonella-infected peanuts being sold to unsuspecting customers. And we know the same thing can, and is, happening in the marketing of raw milk. I don’t think I’d be nuts to see the connection, and wonder how much longer it will be before this level of concern about food safety results in some hard questions being asked about state laws allowing raw milk sales.