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Friday, March 1, 2024

Even 30 Years After the Jack in the Box Scandal, Food Safety Issues Are Still Under-Reported

E. coli O157:H7

In 1993, hamburgers contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, pictured above, sickened hundreds of people and killed four children. Photo by Janice Haney Carr/CDC

Fast food chain Jack in the Box served decades later undercooked hamburger, sickened 700 people and killed four children, the lack of federal oversight of the nation’s food supply is still causing illness and death. Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety attorney and trial lawyer who became a national figurehead on food safety issues in 1993 after representing families in the Jack in the Box case, sees many similar issues today.

“You might think, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard anything about this problem for a while, so I guess everything is fine,'” Marler said. During the AHCJ Webinar on June 14, “Really, it’s because the government isn’t telling you that this is a persistent problem.”

“The mix of foods that are causing problems may have changed, but the problems we have today are the same problems we had 10, 15, 20 years ago,” Marler said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention There are an estimated 9.4 million cases Foodborne illnesses occur each year, resulting in an estimated 56,000 hospitalizations and 1,350 deaths annually. Food safety experts say this is because of a combination of lack of regulation and laxity within the Food and Drug Administration, April 2022 as per Politico report,

Last year, stories The recall of infant formula once again raised national awareness of risks in the food supply. It may have been a driving force behind the House of Representatives Advancing the FDA June 2023 to make changes that can strengthen food security in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the story of infant formula contamination continues.

In March 2023, powdered infant formula manufacturer Perrigo Pediatrics issued a voluntary recall for its Gerber Good Start SoothePro powdered infant formula. Formula made at Wisconsin plant was potentially contaminated in early January 2023 Cronobacter sakazakii, a rare bacterium that can cause severe illness and death in infants. Despite warnings to recall, retailers It continued to be sold in eight states. in 2022 the same deadly bacteria was found in a formula made by Abbott Nutrition and linked to nine babies Deaths.

Where to get food safety story ideas

Both FDA And CDC Provide abundant fodder for story ideas through regular reports on food recalls. Still, “there are many, many, many foodborne outbreaks that are never reported by the FDA or the CDC,” Marler said during the webinar.

She said journalists could inspire change by reporting more on the stories of people affected by food poisoning and by warning consumers whose foods are most vulnerable to pathogens.

“Make the stories of what happens to these people real by writing about them,” Marler said.

After the Jack in the Box outbreak, publicity about the deaths of children prompted federal regulators in 1994 to classify the type of deadly bacteria that caused the disease as – E. coli O157:H7 Reportable to the CDC as a contaminant and if found in food. It is now illegal to sell hamburger meat containing E. coli O157:H7.

Prior to 1994, there was no regulation that prevented the sale of hamburger meat infected with this E. coli variant, nor was it required to be reported to federal regulators. Since then, the number of foodborne outbreaks related to hamburger meat has declined.

“This was a turning point in food safety in the United States,” he said because it shows that food safety regulations work.

For more story ideas and resources for covering food-borne outbreaks:

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