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CDC’s Lack of Transparency

Despite the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest update, the last person to become sick as a result of the salmonella/tomatoes situation became sick on May 27, 2008, scarcely anyone has objected to the FDA warning that consumers nationwide should not eat raw red Roma, raw red plum, raw red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from sources it has identified in a list.

Why? The CDC has hoarded the information necessary to make a fair evaluation of the FDA policy possible.

Although CDC is saying that 73 people have been interviewed and that the date at which illnesses onset range from April 16 to May 27, 2008, it is refusing to release the data points for each person.

The key question is this: Do the date of onsets form a bell curve? Is there any reason to think that May 27, 2008 is not on the tail end, if not the actual end of the outbreak?

CDC should not allow itself to be used to facilitate FDA’s cover-up of its irrelevancy to the protection of public health in this matter. CDC should adopt as a policy the release of all non-privacy-related information at the earliest possible date.

The point, very specifically, is that FDA is not the only organization capable of interpreting the data CDC has collected. We will get better results if the data is publically available and thus subject to public scrutiny.

If CDC continues to play “control” games, hoarding the data so that neither CDC nor decisions FDA makes based on CDC data can be critiqued, then Congress has to legislate a more comprehensive transparency on the part of CDC.

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