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The California Dept. Of Health Services
Owes People An Explanation

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 26, 2006

One issue that is bubbling under the surface of the spinach crisis is the arbitrary nature of power in the government. We wrote a piece entitled Peculiarities About The E. coli Outbreak;you can read the article in its entirety here. In the piece, we asked this question:

Below I link to an article regarding a lawsuit, and I’ll link to it again here. This lawsuit is against Fresh Express and Chiquita and claims that a person got sick with the same E. coli strain as is implicated in this outbreak. If this lawsuit is based on fact, then why hasn’t Fresh Express been implicated? What is the criteria FDA uses to decide when to implicate a company and when not to?

Now the industry concern is not just with the way the FDA has exercised its powers but also the California Department of Health Services. Turns out that CDHS warned Natural Selection Foods that they better do a voluntary recall or else the CDHS was going to do it for them. Natural Selection Foods rose to the plate and did the right thing. Dole followed almost instantly with its own recall.

Both companies did the industry a big favor as they wound up allowing the industry to be portrayed as cooperatively working with government to solve the problem. Refusing to cooperate and thus inciting a mandatory recall would have been a disaster for the image of the industry.

What is curious, though, is that the standard used in the investigation was that those brands brought up more than three times in the investigation — that is to say that of people who were certain of the brand they ate, at least three people named a given brand — were deemed “implicated” in the investigation.

Yet CDHS did not put everyone implicated in the same position. The question is why?

CDHS owes the people an explanation of how it exercises its power. Otherwise the possibility of political favoritism or corruption is too great. The Pundit pledges to publish in full any explanation the CDHS chooses to provide.

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