The House recently passed a new food safety bill (HR 2749) giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power and more money. According to recently discovered documents, such legislation will do nothing to protect our food. Since 1980, it has been the official national policy to dispose of sewage waste on grazing land, fruits and vegetables, parks school grounds and home lawns. The policy was signed by EPA, FDA and USDA based on the premise that EPA had a mandate from Congress under Public Law 92-500 (Clean Water Act) to prevent the release of sewage effluents (water and sludge) into surface water. At that time there were more that three thousand municipal sewage treatment land application sites in operation. However, most states balked at using land treatment systems without additional secondary treatment and EPA refused to fund those treatment systems.
Sewage Treatment Plants Mass Produce Bad Bacteria
Shortly after the national policy was created in 1980, EPA studies documented the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in sewage treatment plants. According to EPA, in 1982 “present- day conventional waste water treatment. . . poisons the rivers and streams.” Not only that, but drinking water treatment plants were picking up the antibiotic-resistant bacteria and adding chlorine-resistance to their armor. Furthermore, Milwaukee’s Milorganite and Chicago Metropolitan Sewage District’s sludge as well as 50 percent of the other municipalities could not meet the national policy requirement.
Studies show that the public health and ecosystems are harmed by toxic sludge. Documents show that when sludge is used for fertilizer:
1. The chemical buildup in animals may affect the first and second generation, as well as those who eat certain animal parts.
2. Bacteria are viable for more than seventy weeks on grazing land.
3. Composting causes bacterial desiccation (dry up) but this only lasts until proper moisture is available.
4. There are even problems with land filling sludge.
According to EPA, “Environmental and public health risks [of sewage sludge used for fertilizer] include leachate contamination of water and soil resources, destruction of native fauna and flora, obnoxious odors, aerosol and dust generation, pathogen transmission, and other related nuisances. . . The risk of transmitting disease is of major concern for the various sludge disposal practices. The direct pathways for disease transmission from sludge land filling operations include aerosols, vector transport, direct contact, groundwater and surface runoff.”
The solution to costly sewage cleanup has been to use the exclusions in the environmental laws that allow municipalities to dispose of sewage effluents and sludge where it wasn’t regulated: “A key advantage of land application is that it usually takes place on privately owned land. Thus, the municipalities can avoid the high cost of acquiring land for disposal sites, or constructing expensive sludge processing facilities.” Bacteria survival in sludge and the associated animal infections were never a consideration in these studies.
The Salmonela-Sludge Link
Switzerland documented the first a positive association of Salmonella in sludge and a cycle of infection existing from man-sludge-animals-man almost forty years ago. The shigella gene was transferred into E. coli to create the O157: H7 variant about thirty-five years ago and the first documented infection was a naval officer in Oakland, California in 1975.
Farmers know that the colibacillus (E. coli) may cause the scours (diarrhea) or death in young calves as well as mastitis in older cows. It does the same to humans. What the farmer doesn’t realize is that the fecal coliform test used to prove that sludge and biosolids are safe only reveals a few E. coli that have inhibited growth at the test’s high temperature. All other enteric bacteria (coliform) growth is suppressed at the high temperature. At normal temperatures, E. coli will triple every hour, multiplying into millions in just a few hours.
Sludge or biosolids is basically a biofilm created by bacteria encapsulating bacteria, viruses, and organic materials. Antibiotic-resistant biofilms will also grow in your body, on your teeth (called plaque) and in water pipes, as well as on your fruits and vegetables. In the body, biofilms cause chronic inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and other illnesses.
With the above documented facts in mind, Congress has funded millions of dollars of fluff studies and public relations programs to convince farmers and the public that sewage effluents and products such as sludge and biosolids are safe for use on grazing land, food crops, parks, school grounds, home lawns and gardens. Farms have been destroyed, cattle have been killed, people have suffered serious irreversible illnesses and many have died needlessly.
SPREADING THE SLUDGE
In the 1970s Congress enacted cradle-to-the-grave legislation for control of hazardous chemicals and waste. What we got is cradle to agricultural and home lawns as Congress neglects its responsibilities. According to a letter from the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to EPA on the endocrine disruptor screening program. “Over the past ten years, EPA has not completed a single step of this multi-stage process. . . assuming that EPA identified the same number of chemicals  for testing each year, testing for the pesticide chemicals alone would not be completed for roughly thirty years, and testing for other chemicals listed under the TSCA Inventory [75,000] could take hundreds of years.” This pace is unacceptably slow and fails to protect the American public from thousands of dangerous chemicals that may interfere with vital biological processes.
The current food safety efforts evade the real problem. Lying to the American people and putting our health in jeopardy is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable for Congress to give agency employees immunity and the right to ignore or change the laws at will. Moreover, giving these agencies more power, more money, and more people to regulate food safety, a problem they created with the national sewage policy, is shear madness.
William Sanjour, Chief of the EPA Solid Waste Division, warned in 1978 that EPA was going to end up in court looking like fools over this national policy. Congress did not heed the warning of EPA’s best—Sanjour, Hugh Kaufman or David Lewis, who fought for public health and suffered badly. It is time to stop this madness. The goals of food safety and health reform are laudable. However, the government needs to actually protect public health by focusing on cradle-to-grave control of waste that is hazardous to public health. This is where the money should be spent, not on ineffective regulations. What Can You Do?
1. Get informed! The latest research of early studies on toxic biosolids can be found on our website, thewatchers.us.
2. Sign our petition. A petition to stop this madness can be found at. www.thepetitionsite. com/2/help-ban-sludge
3. Call your Senator and tell them to vote NO on S 510, the Senate version of the food safety bill.
4. Become a fan of Stop! HR 2749 and S 510 “Food Safety” Bills in Facebook.
5. Spread the word! Send this article to everyone you know, especially farmers and the people they work with.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE FOOD SAFETY BILLS
The draconian H.R. 2749 House version of the food safety bill has already passed the house; below are talking points on S. 510, the Senate version. While not quite as bad as H.R. 2749, S. 510 would be a disaster for small farmers and artisan food producers.
• S.510 calls for federal regulation of how farmers grow and harvest product. Farmers selling food directly to local markets are inherently transparent and accountable to their customers, and there is no reason to impose these regulations on them. Based on FDA’s track record, it is likely that such rules will also discriminate against diversified sustainable farms that produce animals and crops in complementary systems.
• S.510 expands FDA’s powers over food processors, regardless of their size, scale, or distribution. FDA oversight of small, local food processors is overreaching and unnecessary. Small processors selling into local markets do not need federal oversight, unlike the large, industrial, multi-sourced supply chains that are the cause of most foodborne illnesses and food recalls.
• S.510 applies a complex Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to even the smallest local processors, imposing onerous paperwork and record-keeping on these small businesses. Applying a HACCP system to local foods facilities processing for local markets, as well as farmers making value-added products, could undermine and extinguish these emerging small businesses attempting to bring healthy local foods to American consumers. In fact, when HAACP was applied to the meat packing industry, it was instrumental in reducing the number of smaller regional and local meat packers, yet failed to increase the number of independent, objective inspectors in giant meat slaughtering and packing facilities.
Bottom line: Food safety problems lie with the industrial food processors and food imports, not with local producers. FDA should not be given any additional regulatory power over the local food system than what the agency has at present. One size does not fit all when considering food safety bills! Local foods businesses are not the same as animal factories or mega-farms that sell products into industrial scale national and international markets, and should not be regulated the same way! For more information, visit farmtoconsumer.org, click on “Alerts.”
The International Symposium on Food Safety By Geoffrey C. Morell, ND
The International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) held its 96th annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, July 12-15. I had become a member of the IAFP, representing the Weston A. Price Foundation, in January, in order to attend a local symposium on raw milk (see Wise Traditions, Spring 2009, page 94). When the invitation to the conference arrived, my interest was piqued, and I decided to attend to hear what the big boys were saying about food safety.
This was definitely the big Kahuna of food safety experts. Over two thousand scientists and officials attended the event, held at the GayLord Convention Center, just north of Dallas. There were hundreds of booths and innumerable poster displays, filling about thirty rows in the exhibit hall. For a good laugh—or perhaps a cry—have a look at the program, posted www.foodprotection.org/files/annual_meeting/full-program-2009.pdf.
A perusal of the speaking and poster topics shows the high-tech emphasis. Some examples:
- Sterilant Gas Decontamination of Food and Environments and Emerging Technology
- Harnessing Irradiation for the Marketplace Today
- Effect of Gamma Irradiation on Inactivation of Food borne Virus in Oyster
- Effect of Pulsed Light Treatment on Growth and Resistance Behavior of Listeria innocua and Escherichia coli
- Reduction of Salmonella on Five Different Conveyor Belts during Continuous Spray Sanitizing
- Inactivation of Bacterial Spores in Tomato Sauce by High Hydrostatic Pressure
- Effect of Antimicrobial Sanitizers and High Power Ultrasound on Murine Norovirus on Romaine Lettuce
- Use of Edible Coatings Containing Organic Salts to Control Listeria monocytogenes on Cold-smoked Salmon
I believe the “sterilant gas decontamination” technology is what is currently applied to almonds. One gets the impression that the technology comes first, with millions of investment dollars behind it, and then a persuasive salesperson convinces an industry—such as the almond industry—to adopt it. In one session on irradiation, I asked about consumer acceptance and was met with blank looks, as if to say, “What has consumer acceptance got to do with it?”
In spite of all the high-tech applications, it’s easy to see from the program that problems with food safety are not decreasing but getting worse. One whole session was devoted to “Pathogen and Spoilage Persistence.” Other examples:
- Survival of Salmonella spp. during Preparation of Pancakes and Waffles
- Survival of Desiccated Listeria monocytogenes on Stainless Steel and Transfer to Salmon Products
- Extracellular Protectants Produced by Clostridium perfringes Cells at Elevated Temperatures
- Heat Resistance of Seven Pathogenic STEC Serotypes, Including O157:H7, in Single Strength Apple Juice
- Translocation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during Needle Injection for Moisture Enhancement of Meat
- Hepatitis A Virus Survival during Low Heat Dehydration of Green Onion
- Our Food Plants – How Hotter and Wetter Conditions Produce Mycotoxins and Fungal Growth
- Attachment of Norovirus in Manure and Biosolids to Lettuce
- Facing a Persistent Challenge: Salmonella Control in Low-moisture Foods
- Detection and Survival of Bacillus cereus Spores in Raw and High-temperature Short-time Pasteurized Milk
- Survival Characteristics of Persistent Dairy Salmonella Strains
These challenges represent lots of employment for microbiologists, which might explain the resistance to my question, posed several times during the question and answer period: “What about a different approach? What about helping the human body build up natural immunity?” The answer was that with so many strains of pathogens, it was not possible to develop an immunity, either through vaccines or good nutrition. My mention of cod liver oil provoked several caustic remarks. I well remember one New Zealand government official years ago wondering whether our society was becoming too hygienic, making it susceptible to some fresh mutation no one had encountered before.
I asked one overseas exhibitor with a large poster on dairy about establishing a criteria under w hich raw milk could be acceptable. He hinted that it could be done but was not prepared to support or advocate raw milk, stressing that all milk should be treated. The goal, obvious from this conference, is that all food be treated!
As the bureaucrats devise more and more rules, so they will need more and more inspectors to carry out the supervisions. Several presentations dealt with guidelines for home cooking and household hygiene. Where will the home garden fit into all of this? Or will the ever spying eye of the inspector, using a GPS system, be on the trail to hunt out delicious, raw, attractive, organic, untreated commodities and those dangerous home cooked meals? We are left to wonder.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2009.