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  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week announced that it is strengthening toughening food safety policies, randomly testing for E. coli at all meatpacking plants with the authority to shut down plants where contamination is detected.

    The decision comes in part as a reaction to the large number of E. coli recalls that have taken place in recent months, and in part because of a congressional study that said the USDA has been lax in its enforcement policies.

    A zero-tolerance policy, however, is objected to by the meat industry, which believes that to be 100 percent E. coli free all the time is virtually impossible. “The goal of any food safety policy should not be to hit a target that is out of reach,” J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, told the Associated Press.

  • Mark McClellan, the top health policy adviser for the Bush administration, has been nominated to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, filling a post that has been vacant for almost two years, according to the Washington Post.

    There has been a political struggle about the commissioner’s job taking place between the White House and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the committee charged with vetting the nomination. Kennedy has set as a minimum standard for the post NOT having worked in the drug industry, and McClellan meets that requirement; McClellan also is not seen as an ideologue, and has worked in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

    Kennedy said yesterday that “Dr. McClellan has impressive credentials both as a physician and as an economist, and I look forward to learning more about his views on issues critical to the FDA.”

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