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E. coli 0157: H7 sounds like a character in an international spy thriller. And, in fact, 0157: H7 is an assassin, a deadly serial killer that takes out over sixty Americans every year.
What we have here is a vicious bacteria, and it has spread all across the country as our food supply has become industrialized, conglomeratized, and globalized. It’s a sneaky assassin, coming at us in the form of contaminated hamburgers, peanuts, spinach, orange juice… and, now, cookie dough. Yes, death by cookie.
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In June, a 29-state outbreak of E. coli was traced to a Virginia food plant owned by Nestlé, the Swiss-based food giant. The particular perpetrator is Nestlé’s very popular, refrigerated Toll House cookie dough. It’s like being poisoned by someone you love.
The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the mystery of how E. coli get into chocolate chip cookie dough, and they don’t yet have an answer. But the incident has uncovered a silent accomplice in E. coli’s poisonous rampage: our food safety laws.
Rules supposedly meant to protect consumers have been perverted to protect the big manufacturers. FDA does send inspectors into these food plants, but – get this – the corporations can dictate what our inspectors can and cannot look at. It turns out that Nestlé has been less than cooperative, refusing to allow FDA inspectors to review consumer complaints and to inspect the company’s program for preventing food contamination. It has also denied access to pest-control records and refused to let inspectors photograph any part of the plant.
E. coli has come into our food supply because corporate profiteers are taking dangerous shortcuts on sanitation. That’s bad, but it is unconscionable that our elected officials have also allowed the profiteers to control our food safety inspection system.
“Nestlé Unit Denied FDA Requests,” www.wsj.com, June 26, 2009.
“E. coli in Nestlé cookie dough stumps FDA,” www.usatoday.com, June 23, 2009.
“Nestlé E. coli Cookie Dough Plant Legally Kept Records from FDA During Past Inspections,” www.newsinferno.com, June 26, 2009.