Our Readers Respond

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Letters to the Pilot

Before it's too late


I was impressed and touched by the Letter to the Editor submitted by Erica Catton that was published in the July 3, 2004 edition of the Pilot. Ms. Catton detailed her own struggle with addiction and encouraged others to get the help they need.

Ms. Catton's addiction began, as she noted, with experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. She eventually became addicted to the prescription painkiller OxyContin. All too often, prescription medications are not seen as potential substances of abuse. Following prescription instructions is important for any medication, especially those with higher potential for abuse, such as OxyContin and other narcotics. Fortunately, Ms. Catton's

family was there to help her receive treatment.

I applaud Ms. Catton for sharing her very personal story, which reminds us all to support those we know who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Her courage and strength also encourages those dealing with addition to seek help. As she wrote, "there is hope. Get help before it's too late."

- Carrie Jo Hepola Community Prevention Coordinator

B. V. County Prevention Initiative, Storm Lake

Playing it safe with food


I am writing in response to Mr. Robert L. Wilson's letter to the editor [on "food police," regarding the July 4th ice cream social in Storm Lake.] I am sorry that Mr. Wilson does not understand the reasons behind the "death blow" to homemade root beer. I am assuring that if he does not understand, then perhaps others, as well, do not understand.

I know that you would never try to cause a foodborne illness, I can't think of a soul who would. Yet every year an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur in the United States. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases each year.

Foodborne diseases are largely preventable, though there is no simple one-step prevention measure like a vaccine. Instead, measures are needed to prevent or limit contamination all the way from farm to table. A variety of good agricultural and manufacturing practices can reduce the spread of microbes among animals and prevent the contamination of foods. Careful review of the whole food production process can identify the principal hazards, and the control points where contamination can be prevented, limited, or eliminated. A formal method for evaluating the control of risk in foods exists is called the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP system. This was first developed by NASA to make sure that the food eaten by astronauts was safe. HACCP safety principles are now being applied to an increasing spectrum of foods, including meat, poultry, and seafood.

For some particularly risky foods, even the most careful hygiene and sanitation are insufficient to prevent contamination, and definitive microbe-killing step must be included in the process. For example, early in the century, large botulism outbreaks occurred when canned foods were cooked insufficiently to kill the botulism spores. After research was done to find out exactly how much heat was needed to kill the spores, the canning industry and government regulators went to great lengths to be sure every can was sufficiently cooked. As a result, botulism related to commercial canned foods has disappeared in this country. Similarly the introduction of careful pasteurization of milk eliminated a large number of milk-borne diseases. This occurred after sanitation in dairies had already reached a high level. In the future, other foods can be made much safer by new pasteurizing technologies, such as in-shell pasteurization of eggs, and irradiation of ground beef. Just as with milk, these new technologies should be implemented in addition to good sanitation, not as a replacement for it.

In the end, it is up to the consumer to demand a safe food supply; up to industry to produce it; up to researchers to develop better ways of doing so; and up to government to see that it happens, to make sure it works and to identify problems still in need of solutions.

- Kim Johnson, BV County Sanitarian

Let voters own system


From the Register's May 30th expose on campaign contributions from gambling interests to David Chico's June 17th letter to the editor regarding Senator Grassley's ties to pharmaceutical companies, the issue of big money in politics is everywhere. It's all too true that special interests are paying for a larger share of our democracy. And everyone can agree that elected officials should be "owned" by the voters, not a few wealthy contributors. But offering complaints without concrete solutions is pointless. It's time to quit whining about it and actually do something.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other groups are working to bring voter-owned elections to Iowa. This system is already working in Maine and Arizona. In Arizona, voter turnout has increased by 27 percent in general elections. Voter-owned candidates in Maine now make up 77 percent of state Senators and 55 percent of House members - all with no ties to special interest money. Loosening the clutch of big money that has a firm grip on our democracy is not impossible.

- Ferol Wegner, Des Moines