reported today that UK scientists and other experts are meeting in London to identify new methods to tackle campylobacter, which has been shown to affect 75% of Britain’s poultry flock.

A recent study by the Food Standards Agency found 65% of 3,000 samples of chicken bought in the UK was infected with the bacterium, which causes

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming Republican legislator, recently introduced a bill called the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, which, in Wallis’s words, "seeks to clarify the fundamental right of Wyoming citizens to eat whatever they want to eat."

Ron Paul, libertarian-minded republican congressman from Texas undoubtedly would have supported Mrs. Wallis’s bill, had he been a Wyoming

The FDA issued a statement yesterday on the campylobacter outbreak in Michigan linked to raw milk, which reads as follows:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with several state agencies, is alerting consumers to an outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with drinking raw milk. At least 12 confirmed illnesses have been recently reported in Michigan. Symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.

The FDA is collaborating with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and the Indiana State Health Department, to investigate the outbreak. MDCH reports that, as of March 24, 2010, it received reports of 12 confirmed cases of illness from Campylobacter infections in consumers who drank raw milk. The raw milk originated from Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Ind.

The milk was produced in Indiana under a cow-share agreement (sometimes called a herd share agreement).  Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of raw milk.  In fact, it is not a constitutional right to eat whatever you want; and states are, as a result, well within their legal authority to prohibit the sale of raw milk within their borders.

The fact that federal law prohibits the interstate sale and shipment of raw milk (a measure done in furtherance of Congress’s ability to regulate interstate commerce) prompts a question.  What is an Indiana dairy doing selling and shipping milk across state lines?  This was tried before, and it resulted in a criminal prosecution against the offenders (the owners of Dee Creek Farms in Woodland Washington).  What will happen in this cse? 

It is no answer for Forest Grove Dairy, located in Indiana, to say that it did not sell raw milk.  It certainly did, and it’s product was also shipped in interstate commerce, thus violating state and federal law.  Also, Michigan law says, specifically:  "Only pasteurized milk and milk products shall be offered for sale or sold, directly or indirectly, to the final consumer or to restaurants, grocery stores or similar establishments."

The fact that Forest Grove Dairy distributed the subject raw milk using the illusory framework of a cow/herd-share agreement is also a bad defense.  In fact, it’s no defense at all.  I authored the following article for back in November 2009 on this issue specifically:

Truly, to call a cow share agreement a species of legal maneuvering may be giving too much cred to an effort that is designed either to flout the law entirely, or at the very least to avoid the often stringent requirements associated with licensure.  In reality, cow shares are poorly disguised attempts to accomplish something that is, in most states, patently criminal.  As a result, when juding whether such conduct constitutes the sale or distribution of raw milk, courts are likely to approach these cases with a healthy dose of realism in determining what the parties’ true intent was, whether the forum be civil or criminal court. 

Read Cow Share Agreements:  Fooling Nobody.Continue Reading Cow/Herd Share Agreements Revisited

We hear about them so often these days–recalls of all kinds of products, from foods, to medications, to kids toys–that "recall" has become a working concept in everybody’s vocabulary.  But what is a recall?  Who has the legal obligation to announce them?  And what legal ramifications are there ot being involved in one?  

First, despite not having the legal authority to actually recall products, the FDA and USDA are frequently involved.  In fact, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (the agency arm responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and eggs) sets the standards for when, and what kind of, a recall is required.  

The FSIS defines three kinds of recall actions that can fairly be included under the same umbrella.  A "Class I recall" should occur in "a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death."  (Editor’s note: "should" is italicized because sometimes food product manufacturers do not issue class I recalls even when circumstances require it.)  Under this definition, a Class I recall should occur any time a food product is known or suspected to be contaminated with any foodborne pathogen, whether bacterial or viral.  The reason:  bacteria and viruses make people sick, and as a result, food contaminated by them will make people sick.

A "Class II recall" should occur in "a situation in which use of or exposure to a violative product may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote."  This is a little less clear than the definition of a Class I recall, but I certainly believe that the consequences of foodborne disease are simply too extreme for food companies to play fast and loose under these definitions.  A Class I recall should occur every time a food manufacturer knows, or has reason to know, that a product it has produced is or may be contaminated with a foodborne pathogen.  Every time.

Finally, a "market withdrawal"

occurs when a product has a minor violation that would not be subject to FDA legal action. The firm removes the product from the market or corrects the violation. For example, a product removed from the market due to tampering, without evidence of manufacturing or distribution problems, would be a market withdrawal.

A "market withdrawal" has no place in the world of food contamination.  Again, salmonella and e. coli and campylobacter and hepatitis and every other foodborne pathogen are simply too dangerous for companies to try to avoid their obligations by calling what should be a recall a "market withdrawal"–something done purely to avoid the media ramifications of saying that you’re product has been recalled.  This has been done before under circumstances where a Class I recall was surely warranted. Continue Reading Recall basics for food products

Trent Rowe reported yesterday on about the disturbing prevalence of campylobacter on chicken purchased at retail. 

Most of the chickens we buy in supermarkets are contaminated with Salmonella and/or Campylobacter bacteria. They make us sick.

Consumer Reports checked 382 chickens from 100 stores around the country and found the bacteria in about two-thirds of