— OPINION —
I have been thinking it has been some time since I dug into a Naughty or Nice list. Here is one we at Food Safety News put together (with input from readers) in 2009. Reading these brings back a lot of memories, both good and bad. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on who should be on this year’s list.
After much thought and consideration, here was the Food Safety News Naughty list for 2009:
NAUGHTY: Stewart Parnell, President of Peanut Corporation of America, for asking for nearly $1 million from his bankrupt business for his own criminal defense fund after shipping peanuts his own tests showed were contaminated with Salmonella that sickened over 700 and killed at least nine. (See “PCA Executives To Divide $875,000,” Dec 11, 2009)
NAUGHTY: President Obama for NOT appointing a new permanent U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food Safety. ALSO NAUGHTY: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for making excuses about it. (See “FSIS Remains Leaderless,” Oct. 16, 2009)
NAUGHTY: Some raw milk, small and sustainable agriculture advocates who confused the entire food safety debate by making and circulating false claims about the bills. It really is about food safety and is not a gigantic conspiracy by Monsanto to wipe out organic and backyard farms!
NAUGHTY: FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. District Attorney in Georgia for moving so slowly with the criminal investigations of the Peanut Corporation of America and its executives, including Stewart Parnell. (See “One Year Later, Still no Charges for PCA,” Nov 07, 2009)
NAUGHTY: President Obama and Vice-President Biden for ordering undercooked hamburgers for the Press Corps at a DC restaurant with less than stellar inspection reports.
NAUGHTY: Washington State University for removing Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” from the Common Reading Program.
NAUGHTY: The FDA for caving to political pressure and backing down on oyster regulations. (See “Under Pressure, FDA Puts Oyster Policy On Hold,” Nov 14, 2009)
NAUGHTY: The Senate for being too slow on health care reform to pass meaningful–and decades overdue–food safety legislation before the Holidays.
NAUGHTY: Weston A. Price Foundation for more denial of outbreaks and giving consumers false information about raw milk safety.
NAUGHTY: FDA for its failure to control ridiculous health claims like Kellogg’s claiming that Cocoa Krispies are a “Smart Choice” because it “helps support your child’s immunity.” (See “Do Krispies Boost Kids’ Immune Systems?” Nov 01, 2009)
NAUGHTY: J. Patrick Boyle of the American Meat Institute for trying to dynamite the Senate food safety bill even though it doesn’t have anything to do with the meat industry.
NAUGHTY: State public health department officials attending the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference in October who put industry profits ahead of public health.
NAUGHTY: Rep. Charlie Melancon for declaring the death of 15 people a year is not too high a price to pay for a U.S. Senate seat in an oyster growing State. (See “Under Pressure, FDA Puts Oyster Policy On Hold,” Nov 14, 2009)
NAUGHTY: Secretary Vilsack and White House for trying, in the name of free trade, to roll over Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s efforts to assure that the US does not permit poultry processors from shipping raw poultry meat from the US to China for processing and shipping back to the US for sale until USDA has determined that China’s inspection program is equivalent to ours. (See “Deal Reached on Poultry Imports,” Sep 27, 2009)
NAUGHTY: FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg for urging Congress to give the Agency authority to reduce the intensity of inspections if they don’t get all the money they ask for.
NAUGHTY: The FDA staff that keeps appealing to consumer advocates, “don’t set us up to fail,” when consumer advocates push for more inspection. They never say, “help us get the law and resources we need to protect people.”
After much thought and consideration, here was the Food Safety News Nice list for 2009:
NICE: Sen. Dick Durbin for being the driving force behind food safety legislation in the Senate and the HELP Committee for passing S. 510 out of committee with bipartisan support. (See “Senate Schedules Markup of S. 510,” Nov 11, 2009)
NICE: Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for being consumer champions and persistent advocates of food safety reform. (See “DeLauro Urges Inquiry Into Beef Testing,” Nov 13, 2009, “DeLauro Calls for Beef Plant Closure,” Dec 10, 2009 and “Gillibrand to Introduce ‘E.coli Eradication’ Bill,” Oct 14, 2009)
NICE: Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg for improving public access to information, including “Warning Letters” and 483 Reports. (See “FDA Expands What’s In ‘Warning Letters,’” Sep 17, 2009)
NICE: Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan for USDA’s new outreach programs, like “Know your farmer, know your food.” (See “USDA Promotes Local Food,” Sep 25, 2009)
NICE: New York Times writer Michael Moss for his Pulitzer-worthy article on the dark origins of ground beef and the terrible impact of E. coli O157:H7.
NICE: The quick work of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose members worked quickly and got their hands on incriminating email traffic between the PCA executives, who took the Fifth Amendment when called to testify.
NICE: President Obama for setting up the Food Safety Working Group.
NICE: The public, for an outpouring of support for WSU’s Common Reading Program (hat tip, Food Democracy Now).
NICE: Makers of Food, Inc, who introduced the country to the underside of food production, and made a very watchable – if frightening – film about it.
NICE: Michelle Obama, for planting a kitchen garden at the White House, and getting kids involved in (very) local food and for getting a local DC farmer’s market through the red tape.
NICE: FDA for getting a guilty plea by Mark McAfee of OPDC to criminal charges of misbranding raw milk and selling across state lines as “pet food.” (See “FDA Attempts to Corral Raw Milk Producer,” Dec 17, 2009)
NICE: Marion Nestle for, among other things, her persistent and common sense critique of how junk food and soda is marketed to children. (See “Q&A: Nestle on Food Safety Politics,” Sep 21, 2009)
NICE: Mike Taylor and Don Kraemer at FDA for boldly putting public health ahead of Gulf Coast oyster industry profits. (See “FDA Acts to Reduce Raw Oyster Poisoning,” Oct 20, 2009)
NICE: Consumer and public health groups that have joined with produce growers and food processors and retailers to support FDA reform legislation, making its passage possible. (See “Victims: ‘We Want Bill Before Holidays’,” Oct 08, 2009)
NICE: Dedicated writers whose excellent articles gave insight and context to food safety issues: Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post for her piece on Linda Rivera’s struggle with E. coli O157:H7 from cookie dough, Peter Eisler, Elizabeth Weise, and others of USA Today for their reporting on school lunches, and Nick Grube of the Daily Triplicate for his three-part series on Mari Tardiff’s struggle to recover from the Campylobacter infection and ensuing Guillain-Barre Syndrome she got from drinking raw milk.
NICE: Food Bloggers – Simple, Good and Tasty, Cold Truth, Ag and Food Law, Civil Eats, Grist, Weaversway, Chuck Jolley, Food Politics, Ethicurean, La Vida Locavore, Obamafoodorama, Food Shield, efoodalert, Fanatic Cook, Fresh Talk, Center for a Liveable Future, Food Law, Buy Safe Eat Well and Barf Blog.
NICE: Bill Marler and Marler Clark, LLP for their generous support of all three Food Safety News offices in Seattle, Denver, and Washington, DC to make FSN’s coverage of important food safety issues possible, even as traditional media shrink.
These lists were a compilation of submissions from the Food Safety News publisher, staff, readers, and food safety experts.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here)