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Dangerous Imports to Be Discussed at Public Meeting

Dangerous and defective imports have made headlines all summer, prompting many to demand that the government take more action to protect US consumers. Now, Americans are going to be given a chance to air their concerns about this urgent issue. The Interagency Working Group on Import Safety will hold a public meeting in October to discuss recent problems regarding dangerous and defective imports.

The Interagency Working Group on Import Safety was established by the White House in July to conduct a review of import safety programs and recommend ways that the safety of imports can be improved. The group is chaired by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, and includes officials from many other agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Working Group was established after several recalls of defective Chinese products raised concerns over import safety. This year, tires, dog food and toothpaste from China have all been recalled. Most troubling were toy recalls, including one that involved millions of dangerous toys distributed by Mattel. Many of the toys contained dangerous amounts of lead, while others were made with hazardous magnets that could seriously injure children if they were swallowed.

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Bagged Spinach Recall Prompts Calls for More Scrutiny of Food Industry

Wednesday’s recall of Salmonella-contaminated bagged spinach has precipitated something of an argument between consumer advocates and food industry officials. Consumer groups say that the recall of Metz Fresh spinach is proof that more governmental oversight of the food processing industry is needed. But people who work in that industry claim that the very same recall is proof that the current regulations work just fine.

Metz Fresh recalled its bagged spinach Wednesday after tests came back showing that some of the spinach was contaminated with Salmonella. Metz Fresh received the preliminary Salmonella finding last Friday, and further testing confirmed the contamination on Tuesday. While the company did boast that it was able to stop shipment of most of the spinach on Friday, 8,000 Salmonella-tainted cartons were still sent to stores. Metz waited five more days before the company informed the public of the spinach danger. A spokesman for California growers told the Associated Press that because there have been no reports of Salmonella poisoning related to the spinach, the Metz Fresh recall represents a success for the industry.

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After Mattel Toy Recall, China Attempts to Improve Manufacturing Laws

Defective Mattel toys, tainted dog food and other dangerous Chinese imports have sullied that country’s manufacturing reputation. In response to international concerns over its imports, the Chinese government has adopted new toy and food recall laws that go into effect today. The government is hoping that these new legislative initiatives will rehabilitate the country’s image.

The new rules will require Chinese companies that make defective toys and food to cease production and sales until manufacturing issues are resolved. The manufacturers must then notify stores and customers of defective products, and issue replacements or refunds. The food laws establish three levels of severity and a timeline in which action must be taken against defective items. The new laws will be enforced by the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

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Stirrings, LLC Issues Recall For Cocktail Garnish Due to Salmonella Contamination

A cocktail garnish sold by Stirrings, LLC of Fall River, Massachusetts is being recalled because it could be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced the voluntary recall of Rimmer Brand Mojito Cocktail Garnish today. One ingredient used in the powdered garnish has tested positive for the food-borne bacteria.

Stirrings is recalling 3.5 ounce tins of its Rimmer Brand Mojito Cocktail Garnish with the UPC code 80999 00046. All of the recalled garnishes have best buy dates of 10/27/08, 10/30/08, 11/23/08, 12/01/08, 12/04/08 or 01/03/09 printed on the side of the tin. Anyone who bought this product should return it to the store where it was purchased for a refund. The cocktail garnish was sold nationwide through distributors, retail stores, the internet and cocktail establishments.

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Meat Recall Issued After E. Coli Outbreak Sickens Nine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a recall for more than 41,000 lbs of ground beef that has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning. Nine people, including one child, became sick with E. coli O157:H7 after eating ground beef distributed by Oregon-based Interstate Meats under the “Northwest Finest” brand. While two of those sickened had to be hospitalized, health officials have said that everyone is now recovering.

The E. coli tainted beef was sold in grocery stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington between July 19 and July 30. Because it is past its “Sell By” date, the ground beef should no longer be in grocery stores. But many consumers could have the contaminated meat in their freezers, so the USDA is urging people in the states were it was sold to check labels on any ground beef packages before they are used. The recall includes 16-ounce packages of “Northwest Finest 7% FAT, NATURAL GROUND BEEF” with a UPC code of 752907 600127. The recall also covers “Northwest Finest 10% FAT ORGANIC GROUND BEEF”. The UPC code is not available for that variety. All of the packages bear the number “Est. 965” in the USDA inspection mark, and “Sell By” dates between August 1 and August 11. Anyone with this meat in their homes should not use it. The contaminated ground beef can be returned to the store where it was purchased for a refund.

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Dry Dog Food Tainted with Salmonella Tied to Outbreak of Food Poisoning in 18 States

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found strong evidence linking recalled dried pet food manufactured by the Mars Petcare US company to a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella. Sixty-six people in 18 states have been sickened by Salmonella Schwarzengrund, the same strain that was detected in Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula and Krasdale Gravy dry dog foods recalled by Mars Petcare this week.

While there have been no direct links found between any of the 66 Salmonella cases and the dog foods, the CDC said that the Schwarzengrund strain was found in stool samples from dogs of two patients with Salmonella poisoning. Both dogs had eaten the recalled dog food. The CDC also said that its study of the outbreak had found that households with ill persons were significantly more likely to have recently purchased one of the brands of recalled dry dog foods than households without ill persons. Also, the Pennsylvania Health Department found traces of Schwarzengrund Salmonella at the southwestern Pennsylvania factory that produced the food. That plant has been closed until the source of the Salmonella contamination can be found and eliminated.

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Coffeyville Oil Spill Two-Month Anniversary Finds Stricken Town Struggling to Recover

As the citizens of Coffeyville, Kansas mark the two-month anniversary of the oil spill and flood that ravaged their town, many are wondering if the community will every be the same. Between July 1 and July 2, 2007, Coffeyville was overrun by more than 71,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Coffeyville Resources Refinery. Now parts of the town lie in ruins, far too contaminated with crude oil to ever be rebuilt.

The Coffeyville oil spill occurred just as the town was being deluged by a massive flood brought on by several days of heavy rains. The combination of the flood and crude oil created an enormous disaster, as the flood waters carried the oil far from the Coffeyville Resources Refinery. Even after the flood was gone, much of Coffeyville was still covered in an oily muck.

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Toys ‘R’ Us Recalls Wooden Coloring Cases Because of Excessive Lead

Toys ‘R’ Us is recalling 27,000 art kits made in China because both the packaging that holds the kits, as well as some of the paint, contain dangerous amounts of lead. The Imaginarium Wooden Coloring Cases are only the latest dangerous toys imported from China to be recalled for excessive lead content.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Imaginarium Wooden Coloring Cases were sold by Toys ‘R’ Us stores across the country between October 2006 and August 2007. The 213-piece kits include crayons, pastels, colored pencils, water colors, a paintbrush, pencil, pallet, white paint, ruler and pencil sharpener in a tan wooden box. Ink on the outer packaging of the wooden box contains high amounts of lead, as does black watercolor paint included in the set. The wooden coloring cases sold for around $20.00.

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Bagged Spinach Recall; Yet Another Salmonella Tainted Food Product to Reach Consumers

Fresh bagged spinach is being recalled by the California grower Metz Fresh, LLC. The company says a sample of the recalled spinach, which was shipped to grocery stores and food service vendors, has tested positive for Salmonella contamination. This is the third fresh spinach recall in the past year. Last year, bagged spinach sold by Dole was implicated in an E. coli outbreak that killed three people and sickened 225 others. Fresh spinach and bagged salad greens sold by Classic Salads, LLC of Salinas, California were also recalled last summer after testing positive for Salmonella bacteria.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said in a press release that it has not received any reports of illness as a result of the Salmonella-tainted Metz Fresh spinach. The recalled spinach was sold in 10 and 16 ounce bags at grocery stores, and in 2.5 and 4 pound bags shipped in cartons to food service vendors. All of the packages bear the “Metz Fresh” label and tracking codes 12208114, 12208214 and 12208314.

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Many World Trade Center Rescue Workers Still Struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress

World Trade Center rescue workers are suffering from serious mental health problems three years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, says the New York City Heath Department. The Health Department, which studied data from the World Trade Center Health Registry, found that one in eight first responders suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of work done at Ground Zero.

About 71,000 World Trade Center emergency workers are enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. The Health Department surveyed the initial interviews of 30,000 people listed on the Registry. Those interviews were conducted between 2003 and 2004. The study included firefighters, police officers, construction workers, volunteers and even clergy who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11 and the days following the attack.

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