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We must ensure safety of nation’s food supply

Peanuts, pine nuts, spinach and hamburger, oh my! All (in contaminated forms) have seriously injured residents of our community. Now it’s “organic spinach and spring mix.” Can it sound more healthy or innocent for you?

The New York State Department of Health has reported that 16 of our neighbors have fallen ill from E. coli exposure after consuming the salad mix. Exposure to this pathogen can cause severe diarrheal illness, and can lead to permanent kidney damage and/or death. Unfortunately, I would not be surprised if the number of victims grows.

It appears that the guilty party may be State Garden, a Massachusetts company, leaving us to wonder why a product marketed as “good for you” is actually contaminated with a deadly toxin.

It’s hard to gain attention about the issue of food safety, especially in the wake of the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy, but Sandy offers us a perfect comparison. Many believed that a major flood of New York City and the New Jersey coast by a hurricane was just sci-fi hype – the stuff of 3-D movies. Now it is a reality.

So it is with the potential of a major outbreak of food-borne illness, stretching far beyond New York and affecting many more people. While our food supply is generally safe, it needs improvement and significant governmental support.

As a litigator of food-borne illness cases, I believe we need broader use of available technology, more FDA and state inspectors of domestic and foreign food products and tougher laws (e.g., the criminalization of grossly negligent institutional behavior). Let’s not wait for the next big storm.

Paul V. Nunes

Buffalo