Wednesday March 10, 2010 | Food Safety

March 9, 2010 at 10:02 am | Posted in Coming Up | 15 Comments

We conclude a series on the politics of farming today with an examination of the food safety system in North Carolina. Our experts cover many areas of food safety including restaurant and grocery store inspections, farm produce policies and protecting consumers against food-borne illnesses. No agricultural policy is more important than the safe handling of the food that journeys from farm to fork. A look at the safety of the food we eat.
Lynn Lathan
– Supervisor, Food and Facilities Sanitation Program, Mecklenburg County Health Dept.
Dan Ragan – Director, Food and Drug Protection Division, NC Dept. of Agriculture
Diane Ducharme – Cooperative Extension Program for Value-Added & Alternative Agriculture, NC State University

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  1. […] link directly to WFAE and their  Blog […]

  2. The best solution is to return food growing and processing to more responsible local/regional farmers and ranchers who can put much more care in to it.

    The problem is that the vast majority of America’s food is now grown and processed in mass-quantities on disgustingly unsanitary factory assembly lines by poor immigrants and guest workers. Have any of y’all ever visited a meat-processing plant? I have, and it isn’t a pretty sight.

    Return food production and processing to local/regional producers. The most important thing is to scale it down to more manageable levels instead of continuing on with this ridiculously unsustainable factory-farming system.

  3. Please discuss the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S 510) that is on the floor of the Senate and there is a push by supporters to force it through without the thorough discussion it deserves.

    S 510 continues the one-size-fits-all, Washington-knows-all regulatory approach of the already passed House Bill 2749.

    Every single sustainable agriculture group in America is working long hours to produce healthy food for local markets. Yet, no sustainable ag group supports the bill as written. ALL are working to change it.

    If passed, as written, local, healthy food for local people will be crippled for, at least, a decade. Every small food distributorship and processor will be hard pressed to stay open. Because I am clear about what will be required, my wife and I will not be able to continue expanding our food distributorship nor can we spin it off as a separate entity.

    For more info about the impact of S 510, please write me at or call me at 828/669-4003.

  4. Hi Mike and guests,

    I’ve been in the food industry as a pastry chef for over 27 years and I’m concerned about the safety of the food supply after stories I’ve heard on NPR. I sent an email to the white house, suggesting that a lot more food inspectors for the meat, fish and produce industries would go a long way to helping the situation AND it would provide the shovel ready jobs that Obama says he wants to create. It sounds like a win win that no one would be against (except the big producers). Of course I didn’t hear anything back or hear any announcements of such a program. Any ideas as to how this could be promoted to the white house better than me sending another email?

    Thank you,

    John in Waxhaw

  5. It seems that government involvement, in most anything, over complicates the processes and introduces inconsistencies. I buy unpasteurized, non-homogonized milk from a local dairy because I want the enzymes and good bacteria that pasteurization indiscriminately kills.
    for centuries, we processed (best term) our foods and had few difficulties. Now, we over-process and more people get sick from foods that ever before. I opposed HR875 and I still oppose any pseudo-protection actions. I can make good decisions without the government telling me what is good.
    If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it in/on my food nor in/on the ground in which my food grows.

    • Matthew:”I buy unpasteurized, non-homogonized milk from a local dairy because I want the enzymes and good bacteria that pasteurization indiscriminately kills.”

      Matthew — would you care to share the local NC dairy farmer you get your raw milk from? I want to get some of that.

  6. As Mike just mentioned the meat producers have to pump their livestock full of antibiotics just to keep them from dying of infections before they are slated to be slaughtered.

    The reason is because all of these ‘farms’ have their livestock crammed in to tiny spaces with bad food, bad water, bad air, the livestock living in their own filth.

    Again, the best solution is to DECENTRALIZE production, especially meat. Instead of one huge factory-farm, we could have 100 smaller farms which produce superior meat because the livestock is given more space, better food/water, and more personal care from the farmer. This would also employ 100 small local/regional farmers instead of one factory-farming system which exploits dirt poor immigrants to process all of our food.

  7. Dan Ragan’s mention of the CARVER + Shock program of the FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (the meat inspection system) demonstrates clearly the inability of the FDA to fulfill its mission. The CARVER + Shock software is available for download by ANYONE on the FDA website (see

    The description says, “It allows the user to think like an attacker to identify the most attractive targets for an attack.” In other words, the FDA has created a software system and is making it available for anonymous download by our enemies.

    I have spent 2 1/2 months unsuccessfully to get the FDA, Homeland Security and our legislators to understand. EVERY former military person I’ve told about shakes their head in disbelief. And that includes the man who led the Special Forces team retaking our Embassy in Kuwait and a former Marine Embassy guard whose last task was to help harden the Cairo embassy against Osama bin Laden in 1999.

  8. The statistics on source or outbreaks and cases are at the CDC. They are not readily available. To get them, you have to have specific permission. I learned this when trying to check some of the stats of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Unfortunately, the CDC’s last full annual report was in 2005. By the time we even get the statistics, they are worthless for use in trending.

  9. Harry: This is Tim Ross, a Producer with Charlotte Talks. You can get a timeline of outbreaks all the way up to the recent Peanut Butter recall on Wikipedia. It’s Wiki but there are a long list of references confirming the information. It’s not as accurate as I suspect the CDC information may be with case numbers and other info but it does provide an overview.

  10. Ms. Lathan is wrong about the CDC and FDA’s focus on tomatoes.

    The CDC & FDA have considered tomatoes as a key problem area in food safety for at least 10 years. In fact, the CDC/FDA has viewed them as so dangerous, it has had blinders for other possibilities. This was what led to the disastrous impact on the 2008 tomato crop around the country. The FDA/CDC jumped to the conclusion that the Salmonella St. Paul was from tomatoes. Despite extensive efforts of the produce industry to point them at peppers, they refused to expand their view. Furthermore, the FDA so poorly worded its notices that tomatoes (including those from NC that were NOT being harvested at the time of the outbreak) were implicated. I, personally, spent about 8 hours over several days trying to get them to listen. So did the NCDA.

    • HH:”The CDC & FDA have considered tomatoes as a key problem area in food safety for at least 10 years.”

      Southerners (and others) can avoid buying tainted tomatoes by growing some of their own in their back-yard, side-yard, back porch, front porch, etc as most people used to do before the mass-industrial system started growing out-of-control in the last few decades.

      The climate here in the Carolinas especially is excellent for growing tomatoes — just make sure if you want to grow them that they get at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight a day during the Summer (more if possible – even 10+ hours a day of full sunlight for maximum production).

  11. SOME GAPs are completely arbitrary. They have no scientific basis. A good example is proximity of animals.

  12. S 510 does not “take any teeth” out of HR 2749. It removes some requiresments (e.g., $500 flat annual registration fee and mandatory methodology for traceability).

    But this is not enough.

  13. This show was fundamentally flawed in that it featured guests too far downstream in the food chain to describe problems and solutions. This level of officials serve a conflicting role and are utterly dependent and obedient to the current food industrial complex. I quit eating any meat as a matter of conscience and self-preservation more than 20 years ago. I do eat some dairy but no eggs. I avoid all prepared foods and try to cook fresh but I harbor no illusions.

    You raw milk people are fooling yourselves if you think there is some environmental divider between the cows you suck and the ones at commercial dairies. I think the crash of honey bees (apiary, if you prefer) illustrates well that all agriculture and food production is connected and that it impossible to operate in seclusion. Even if you’re growing topsy-turvies on the patio you have probably been Monsantoed. (Monsantoes are delicious when sliced thin with a ginzu knife by Gordon Ramsey says the Create Network.)

    Mike, if you still read these comments I’d like you and your apprentice Tim-Thumbs to know that the show you did on dairy was head and shoulders above this one. I don’t see how your discussion rose to the level of “Food Incorporated”. Ira Flatow had a good discussion on world food production and its hazards and hopes last Friday on Science Friday. Review that material before you try again, I suggest. Also visit the Earth Policy Institute site (Lester Brown the old tomato farmer)to understand why all food prices will soon be going up fast. (Water is the main reason: its quality and corporate speculation in it as a commodity.) Think how nasty the Catawba has become and do a show on alternate means of human waste processing to produce energy and needed mineral stocks. Our sustenance discussion has generally become stale and has hardly advanced in the last several decades. Too many catchwords and hopeless business schemes cloud our thinking. Why not ask Metrolineans what they think should be done with their toilet flushes in order to forestall a mega-catastrophe. We’re eagerly drinking our own waste and wondering why life is less sweet in the Carolinas. (Where do fish camp fish come from? Just below the discharge.)

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