totinos.jpgYou say your child still has diarrhea, two weeks after getting E.coli 0157:H7 from one of our pepperoni pizzas? No problem. We hope you kept the box, because all you have to do is cut out the bar code, send it in to our special E.coli redemption center, and guess what? We’ll send you a coupon for another pizza. Absolutely no charge. You paid your hard-earned 99 cents for that pizza and we’re going to give you 99 cents of value! Plus, we’ll give you ten-to-one odds this replacement DOESN’T contain E.coli. What do you say? Is that a deal, or is that a deal! And give your little guy a kiss from us. We’re sure that before you can say FDA or CDC, he’ll be begging you for more Totino’s pizza.


You think I’m making this up? Gee, Totino’s Pizzas should hire me to write their ad copy. Totino’s (a subsidiary of General Mills) has in the last few days initiated a recall of more than 400,000 cases of its pizza—nearly four months after the first case of E.coli from its pizza was reported–and included its generous "replacement" offer.

The FDA didn’t think this was important enough to mention on its web site; the CDC has a Q&A about it, in which it says the company will give you “a full refund” (not just a replacement) on recalled pizza. Interestingly, it cautions against administering antibiotics to people who have E.coli 0157:H7 (which has let to many developing kidney problems).


Is there a double standard here, or am I just imagining that contaminated pizza (and spinach, lettuce, frozen hamburger, etc., etc.) are treated differently from raw milk? I wish I were imagining it. If this were raw milk, I don’t think your main penalty would be to invite customers to receive a free replacement gallon. You’d be shut down, with inspectors crawling up the rear ends of your cows determined to link you to the illness. There’d be government press releases warning you to watch out.


And just as Mary McGonigle-Martin likes to suggest (and did in her comment following my posting on the California legislator), this is real people getting sick. This from a posting on a writers group listserve I am part of:


“Last night on the news the lead story was that 21 people had gotten sick after eating Totino’s frozen pepperoni pizza.

Upon my return from New York on Monday morning I found everyone in my family SICK, SICK! We thought they picked up a bug at school and passed it around. Until we heard the news last night (Thursday).


“Because I was not home on Saturday, they decided to take the cheap-dinner route and each ate a Totino’s frozen pepperoni pizza, which as it turned out was the culprit behind their sickness.


“To add injury to insult, yesterday…WalMart…indicated that if consumers send in the label they will be reimbursed–.99 per pizza. A lot of trouble for a few bucks.”


So actually, the total number of people who became sick is more than 21.


Related to the above, the notion of “good” bacteria helping prevent disease and allergies received some high-profile media attention. The current issue of Newsweek has a cover story about the epidemic of allergies in children, and states: “But why do allergies appear to be on the rise? One of the most intriguing theories, dubbed the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ is that we’ve all become too clean. The immune system is designed to battle dangerous foreign invaders like parasites and viruses and infections. But clean water, antibiotics and vaccines have eliminated some of our most toxic challenges…Without hard-core adversaries, the theory goes, the immune system starts battling the innocuous—egg or wheat—instead."


Newsweek doesn’t go the next step and encourage people to consume probiotics and fermented foods (not to mention unpasteurized products) but, I guess you have to appreciate what you get from the major media.


There is a piece of good news about raw milk: Georgia’s agriculture commissioner dropped a proposal to add dye to raw milk, which must be sold (wink, wink) as pet food, following a public meeting. The idea was to make the milk unappetizing to people who might get the crazy idea they want to drink it. The blog foodshedplanet has an excellent account of the meeting.


This development relates directly to Steve Bemis’ point (in a comment on my previous posting) about the need to educate regulators concerning the nuances of raw milk production. Georgia’s agriculture commissioner vetoed the proposal to dye raw milk because 150 people showed up, and they were all against the regulation. I’m not sure if he was educated (see a previous press release warning about “the dangers” of raw milk), but he certainly recognizes the power of overwhelming opposition.


This episode also helps explain why California’s legislature passed its change regarding coliform counts under cover of darkness.