Don’t Eat Those Dangerous Cookies, People of San Francisco!

Who doesn’t love raw cookie dough? Have you heard of the recent recall by Nestle of its raw cookie dough? The cookie dough has been voluntarily recalled by Nestle due to its link to a recent E.Coli outbreak. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we think this current recall should spur into action the much needed overhaul the food-safety system. This recall brings into the spotlight one of the FDA’s major handicaps: it does not have the authority to order a recall on its own and relies on the cooperation of food providers to voluntarily recall products.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Nestle refused to give Food and Drug Administration inspectors documents on pest-control and consumer complaints during earlier inspections in recent years. Companies are not required by law to open up their books, but many food companies do, an FDA official told the Wall Street Journal. The agency can only demand access to records if it shows a reasonable belief that the foods are a serious health threat. So far, the E. coli outbreak has affected 69 people, 34 of which have required hospitalization. The bacteria is usually found in cattle feces and can cause severe illness, kidney failure or death. Federal officials are inspecting the Danville facility for clues as to how the bacteria could have gotten in the dough. The CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states, the FDA, and the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate the outbreak.

Nestlé’s cookie dough is packaged with labels warning consumers not to eat it raw, but that warning should not mean Nestle can’t be sued. Everyone knows that Americans love raw cookie dough. It has even been introduced in certain flavors of ice cream. Victims can’t be blamed for not reading the warning label – it seems accepted by most people that eating raw cookie dough has become, in a way, like a national pastime. Nevertheless, the FDA advises not to eat any varieties of pre-packed Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination. If consumers have any prepackaged, refrigerated cookie in their home they should throw them away. Cooking the dough is not recommended because consumers might get the bacteria on their hands and on other cooking surfaces.

U. S. efforts to prevent food-contamination illnesses have been criticized for poor communication and coordination between state, local and federal authorities. Currently, Legislation is working its way through Congress that would stiffen requirements for food companies, calling for them to keep more records and give the FDA access during inspections. The Obama administration is now sending a clear signal to that the days of neglect are over. It is a new era and the end of the Bush administration’s practice of weakening regulation in favor of industry profits. In March of this year, Obama said America’s food safety laws have not been updated since they were written during the Teddy Roosevelt’s administration. He named Margaret Hamburg the new FDA Commissioner and announced he is forming a new “Food Safety Working Group”. The group’s mission will determine how our food safety laws need to be overhauled.