Archive for February, 2007
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“If we cannot protect the nation’s supply of peanut butter, one must ask how prepared we are for a terrorist attack on our nation’s food supply,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak said on Friday.
“As chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, I have already been working with Commerce Committee chairman (John) Dingell to open an investigation into the adequacy of the FDA’s efforts to protect our nation’s food supply.”
These concerns stem from the total recall of all Peter Pan Peanut Butter products purchased since May 2006. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all Peter Pan brand peanut butter purchased during this period should be discarded. This decision follows reports of more than 290 people in 39 states falling ill after consuming the peanut butter, 46 of which were hospitalized.
Also recalled is all Great Value brand peanut butter purchased during the same time period. Great Value is the Wal-Mart brand of the peanut butter. Although none of the salmonella outbreaks have been linked to the Great Value brand, it is manufactured at the same ConAgra Foods facility. As such, the CDC feels that discarding this product is a precautionary measure in the interest of public safety.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday that all contaminated jars of the product can be identified by the product code 2111. This product code is the first four digits of the number printed on the lid of the jar for both Peter Pan and Great Value. Anyone possessing one of these jars is advised to discard the product or return it to the place of purchase.
The CDC has identified the specific strain of bacteria as Salmonella Tennessee. This is one of many salmonella strains. The bacteria can cause nausea, diarrhea and other ill effects. Symptoms generally clear up on their own within a week.
“FDA laboratory personnel will analyze samples collected from the manufacturing plant,” the agency said.
In addition to national distribution in the United States, the 2111 coded jars have also found their way around the world. Citizens in the Philippines have expressed concerns after finding potentially contaminated peanut butter in their pantry. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates has now announced that they are returning jars of the product as well.
The contamination has also resulted in a series of lawsuits filed against ConAgra Foods. The first of these, filed by Susanna and Brian Cox of St. Joseph, Missouri, alleges that the family became extremely ill in October after eating Great Value peanut butter. The FDA, however, maintains that Great Value has not been linked to the salmonella outbreak.
The same Seattle based attorney handling the Cox case has also filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York on behalf of a family with a 2 year old child. The lawsuit alleges that the child became ill in the past week after eating Peter Pan peanut butter. A Texas couple has also filed suit against ConAgra Foods. More lawsuits are expected to follow in coming weeks.
Of course, stomach nausea and lawsuits aren’t the extent of the concerns circulating in Washington. This salmonella outbreak, combined with another last November that was linked to tomato crops, has many on Capital Hill speculating as to how well protected our food supply is. The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has already launched an investigation into the FDA’s ability to protect the nation’s food supply, particularly in terms of protecting it from potential terror attacks.
Many consumer protection groups have lodged complaints in reference to the Government’s food safety efforts. These complaints charge that the various agencies involved with this effort, including the FDA, CDC and the US Department of Agriculture, do not communicate with each other effectively.
Approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year. Around 600 of these are fatal.
This article may be found at Idiggi
By Jerry Garner
Iran accused the United States on Tuesday, of coordinating the abduction of an Iranian Diplomat conducting business in Iraq. U.S. Officials have denied any direct or indirect involvement in the kidnapping, as tensions between the two nations continue to escalate.
Shortly after sunset on Sunday, a car transporting Jalal Sharafi, second secretary to the Iranian Embassy in Iraq, was travelling through the streets of a Shiite neighborhood. Sharafi had just left a branch of the state-owned Iranian bank in the Karradah district, when his car was blocked by gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms.
Sharafi was forced into one of two vehicles that began to speed away from the scene. Suspicious of what was happening, Iraqi police opened fire on the vehicles, disabling one of them. Sharafi was not in the vehicle that was stopped, but four gunmen found inside were arrested and interrogated.
The following day, uniformed Iraqis appeared at the police station, presented proper identification badges, and demanded custody of the four gunmen for transfer to another detention facility, an official stated.
The authorities complied with the seemingly legitimate order, and the gunmen disappeared. Neither the Interior Ministry nor the Defense Ministry, who collectively control the Iraqi Security Forces, had any information as to what happened to the gunmen when they left the police station.
The Iranian Government and some Shiite lawmakers in Iraq believe that Sharafi was detained as part of an intelligence gathering operation carried out by the Iraqi Special Operations Command, under the direct supervision of U.S. Forces.
“They acted under U.S. supervision,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said in a statement released in Tehran. Al Hosseini described the incident as a “terrorist attack.”
“Based on reliable information, certain agents behind the terrorist act have been arrested. They acted under U.S. supervision,” Hosseini said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran considers it a responsibility of U.S. forces in Iraq to protect members of the diplomatic community, including Iranian diplomats, and will hold them responsible for obtaining the release of the abducted Iranian diplomat.”
At the same time, the Bush administration has accused Iran of fueling sectarian violence in Iraq by providing Shiite extremists with weapons and explosives that are being used to attack both U.S. Forces and Sunni Arab targets. U.S. Forces have been holding five Iranians in custody for the past month following a raid carried out in the Northern city of Irbil, and accuses the Iranian Government of plans to attack Americans in the region.
An official at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad states that Shafari’s abduction is just the latest case of heavy handedness under the orders of U.S. officials. “They should release our colleague as soon as possible,” he said angrily.
The United States remains firm in it’s position that neither U.S. Forces, or Iraqi troops under their command, had any involvement with the abduction.
“In all of our research we have found no unit within Multi-National Force-Iraq or that we are associated with that has conducted any operation that remotely resembles this,” said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. “We’re continuing to research based on the seriousness of this. However, at this time, there is no evidence that any MNF-I unit participated in this event.”
Although the United States has received the blame for the kidnapping, there is little or no evidence to support the allegation, and there are many alternatives to consider. Kidnappings are common in Baghdad, where merchants and high ranking local officials are often kidnapped by criminals who wish to command a large ransom for their release. Other suspects include rogue elements of the Iraqi Security Forces, or even Sunni insurgents.
Iran officials, however, refuse to consider the possibility that Shafari’s kidnapping was anything less than an attempt by Washington to exert control over Tehran.
“This is not the first time such a thing has happened,” the Iranian Embassy official said of Sharafi’s alleged abduction. “Normally, the United States is responsible.”
American officials remain firm that there is no involvement from their forces. “We don’t really know a whole lot about it at this point,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said. “We know that the Iraqi government is investigating.”
At this time, details are incomplete at best according to Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari. “We are working very hard and the Prime Minister is working very hard to get to the bottom of this,” Zebari said. “This is unacceptable. It’s our responsibility to protect diplomats in this country.”
The one thing that is absolutely certain in all of this is that an already tense situation has been further intensified by the abduction of Jalal Sharafi.
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This article may be found at Idiggi
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