Reprinted from www.libertylobby.org, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive
Mexican farmers are poisoning Americans
The Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are downplaying incidences of food poisoning in the United States, particularly in the wake of reports of widespread contamination of produce which enters the country by the ton daily from Mexico.
Under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), less than 3 percent of Mexican produce is inspected, although all of it is packaged with the markings of being approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In the wake of other reports indicating some 81 million cases of food poisoning last year, the CDC estimated, using data collected from only five states, that the nationwide total is more like 8 million cases, of which about 1,000 ended in death.
"Even if the latest numbers show fewer illnesses or deaths, it is still a significant problem and one that, in my judgment, cries out for congressional action," Sen. Sussan Collins (R-Maine) said.
Sen. Collins plans to introduce legislation next year that will, among other provisions, tighten controls over imported produce.
Caroline Smith Dewall of the center for Science in the Public Interest, a critic of the CDC findings, said "the public doesn't expect to die from food.
"Even 1,000 deaths would be too many if they are linked to a problem that's preventable."
Shigella, most of which comes from produce contaminated with feces, was the third biggest cause of food poisoning in America in 1997. Much of the poisoning can be traced to food originating in Mexico.
As an example, 331 diners at a Mexican restaurant in the tiny town of Willits in California's Mendocino County were reported to have contracted shigellosis from salsa made from suspect Mexican produce.
Shigellosis causes diarrhea and high fever and can lead to seizures in infants.
Carol Whittingslow, nursing director of the Mendocino County Health Department, said she had not seen a shigellosis outbreak in 20 years until the incident in Willits.
While shopping in supermarkets across America, Consumers are for the most part unable to detect produce originating from Mexico or other foreign countries. Individual items of fruits or vegetables as displayed in the market bear no identification indicating origin.
The late Rep. Sonny Bono (R-Calif.) Was fighting for legislation to make it mandatory that each item of produce be marked with its country of origin when he was killed in a skiing accident.
While U.S. producers are required to meet stringent USDA requirements regarding cleanliness of production and handling, Mexican produce is often fertilized with human fecal material, as farm workers are allowed to relieve themselves at will in the fields they are working. Produce has been reported to be frequently washed before shipment with water contaminated by feces.
There have even been reports of open sewers emptying into fields of produce intended for export.