A rash of deadly food outbreaks have hit the nation. Salmonella-tainted turkey forced the third-largest recall on record, E. Coli contamination forced the recall of more than 130,000 pounds of ground beef in Ohio, and listeria-tainted fruit caused the country’s deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade. Indeed, the listeria from contaminated cantaloupes have now infected at least 100 people and claimed 18 lives. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that people have died in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
And now Iowa joins the list, where a pregnant woman had a miscarriage after contracting listerosis. The Iowa Department of Public Health said the woman, who has since recovered, “had been infected with a strain of listeria monocytogenes that matched the strain detected” in the tainted cantaloupes. According to the CDC, pregnant women are “are about 20 times” more susceptible to listeria and, as evidenced by this woman, “the complications can be quite serious”:
According to the CDC, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get the bacterial infection, and roughly 17 percent of listeriosis cases occur during pregnancy.
“Pregnant women are much more susceptible to having symptoms and becoming severely ill from listeria,” Quinlisk said. “Once they have the infection, the complications can be quite serious.”
The deadly nature of food outbreaks should underscore the necessity for food safety regulations. Indeed, a federal food inspector in California recently prevented a new listeria outbreak in lettuce thanks to an FDA research program. However, House Republicans are blindly waging war on the very same food safety regulations that help prevent such tragedies. This summer, House Republicans slashed $87 million from the Food and Drug Administration and $35 million from the USDA’s food safety and inspection service, arguing that the food industry “self-polices.” GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) railed against regulations on food supply as “overkill” that prevents job creation.
Even now, Republicans continue to block the necessary funds to implement President Obama’s landmark law that provides first significant upgrade to the nation’s food safety system since 1938. This kind of negligence will only result in greater tragedy. As the Department of Health and Human Services notes, one out of six Americans suffers from foodborne illness every year and 3,000 people die from such illnesses each year.
If Republicans want to continue calling itself the “party of life,” their first step should be to stop what they’re doing, and actually work to ensure that Americans — born and unborn — won’t die from what they eat.