Elaine makes a good point about the inadequacy of the FDA in protecting us and our animals from contaminated food. I think the danger lies not only in the fact that the FDA's regulatory powers are limited at best, but also in the fact that most Americans believe this agency can do and does do more than it does. We trust it, in other words. It's time to take off those blinders, folks.
I have long known about the so-called inspections of meat, for example (see Fast Food Nation for a truly revealing description). Honestly, it would be laughable if it weren't so frightening. It makes me glad I'm a vegetarian. But interestingly, the recent e coli outbreak from spinach may well have come from cattle farmers near the contaminated fields of spinach. According to the FDA's final report:
...Potential environmental risk factors for E.coli O157:H7 contamination at or near the field included the presence of wild pigs, the proximity of irrigation wells used to grow produce for ready-to-eat packaging, and surface waterways exposed to feces from cattle and wildlife.Thus, even those of us who avoid meat can be contaminated by it.
The investigation by the FDA and several other agencies into the e coli incident was thorough and involved DNA testing of bacteria to narrow down the suspect fields. This says to me that the tools are there, the investigative techniques are available. It's too bad as much effort is not put into the front end, into basic regular meaningful inspections of food for people and animals.