WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Thursday, March 9, 2006

USDA Did Not Report Outbreak Linked to Meat

The government declined to alert the public about suspect ground beef or request a recall after salmonella sickened at least 31 people nationwide in 2004, according to a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, made public yesterday by food safety advocates, said the Agriculture Department traced illnesses in nine states -- Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin -- and the District to a supermarket chain and a single meat-processing plant.

The department decided no action was needed because the plant was following federal guidelines. The CDC did not name the plant or supermarket chain. A separate report from the Minnesota Department of Health referred to the chain as a member-only warehouse.

Department spokesman Steven Cohen said officials did a full investigation and were prepared to act on any problems at the plant. "We didn't find problems," he said.

That is not much comfort for people who got sick, said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy for Consumer Federation of America. "Nobody died, but 31 people . . . got sick from eating this product, and I can tell you, not one of them thought that it was their best day on Earth."

5,700 Biologists Back Endangered Species Act

More than 5,700 biologists urged the Senate in a letter to keep the Endangered Species Act largely intact, rather than engaging in a radical revision.

The House has passed legislation changing how the government assesses whether to protect plants and animals and how it compensates landowners. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will unveil its version within weeks.

"Thanks to a strong scientific foundation, for 30 years the Endangered Species Act has protected wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction," Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist at Duke University, said yesterday. "We should protect biodiversity by strengthening and fully funding the ESA, rather than attacking it."

Committee spokesman Bill Holbrook said the panel is "hard at work drafting bipartisan legislation . . . I would only caution special interests against attempting to characterize Senate legislation before it is actually introduced."

W.Va. Mining Firm Is Fined $105,840

The federal government said it had fined the company that owns the West Virginia mine where a dozen miners were killed Jan. 2 $105,840.

The fines, which were meant to address serious health and safety violations, were for 43 citations that had previously been issued but had not yet received a price tag. A little more than $24,000 had previously been assessed.

-- From Staff Reports and News Services


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