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New Law Blogs: Food Poisoning Law Blog
Report: School Lunch Food Poison Recalls Ineffective
After 40 years of administering the nation's school lunch program, you would think the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service would have a streamlined, fail-proof, highly technological and effective system for recalling potentially contaminated food items it provides for 31 million school children across the country.
In fact, the opposite was true in the case of this year's massive peanut product Salmonella outbreak caused by Peanut Corp. of America. That is apparent from a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) for Congress obtained by USA Today reporters Peter Eisler and Blake Morrison.
Their important journalistic effort shines new light on a subset of victims in the outbreak and the report itself questions why FNS isn't wired to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal food policing agencies to provide advance warning of the potential for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, or other pathogens in commodities it supplies for school lunch and breakfast.
According to the audit, FNS lacks systems to ensure it is notified when FDA is investigating a problem. If it knew an investigation was under way, food items in question could at least be shelved until the results are certain.
Instead, from reading the story, here is the sort of thing that takes place:
'Auditors cited the recalls of nearly 4,000 products containing peanuts from Peanut Corp. of America. After Salmonella was traced to the company's Georgia plant, the FDA announced a limited recall of products made during a specific period. But the Food and Nutrition Service determined that its purchases from the plant were not made during that time and said on its website that schools weren't affected. Not until six days later — after the recall was expanded to cover products made on other dates — did the service tell schools to pull all the plant's products"
Even when recalls are instituted by FNS -- which also is in charge of supplying nutrition to children in daycare settings -- it can take more than a week for recall information to reach schools, according to the audit.
National food safety law firm Pritzker Olsen attorneys has filed a Salmonella wrongful death lawsuit against Peanut Corp. of America in connection with the outbreak. The firm -- one of the nation's best known and highly regarded practitioners in the area of foodborne illness litigation -- represents the families of three women who tragically died in the outbreak.
The GAO report sheds new light on our nation's handling of the outbreak. the GAO believes that 226 students who got diarrhea, stomach pain and other Salmonella symptoms — including 46 who were hospitalized — may have consumed tainted products in school.
Overall, more than half of the approximately 700 confirmed victims of the outbreak were under the age of 18. Statistics show that 21 percent were under age 5 and 33 percent were age 5 to 17. If you are a parent or guardian to one of the children sickened in this outbreak, contact a Salmonella lawyer at Pritzker Olsen. An attorney can be reached at 1-888-377-8900 (Toll Free). To receive a free case consultation online, please complete one of our contact and information forms.
Here is a link to the USA Today school lunch food poisoning story.
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