January 11, 2012
By Marie Claire Jalonick
Congressional investigators looking into an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe linked to 30 deaths last year found that third-party auditors who gave Colorado’s Jensen Farms a “superior” rating just before the outbreak largely ignored government guidance on food safety.
A bipartisan report released Tuesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee quotes a representative of an auditing company that graded the facility two months before the outbreak as saying audits are not intended to help clients improve food safety standards. Retailers often rely on such audits to make sure food they buy is safe.
Democrats on the panel asked the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on such third-party auditors, who often are the only outside entities to inspect food facilities. A food safety law signed last year will boost FDA inspections of such facilities, but money to carry out those inspections is not guaranteed from Congress.
“Weaknesses in third-party auditors represent a significant gap in the food safety system,” the Democrats said. Republicans on the committee signed the report but did not echo the Democratic call for more oversight.
The FDA currently does not regulate third-party auditors. The food safety law requires the agency to improve third-party audits of food facilities abroad that export to the United States, but does not address domestic audits.
July 20, 2010
Citing new information about Google’s classified government contracts and the Internet giant’s admitted Wi-Spying activity, Consumer Watchdog today said it is more imperative than ever for the Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct hearings into possible privacy violations by Google.
In a letter to Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group’s John M. Simpson wrote:
“Based on today’s Washington Post, it appears that Google holds classified U.S. government contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the U.S. government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons. Finally, it also appears that Google’s widely criticized efforts to collect wireless network data on American citizens were not inadvertent, contrary to the company’s claims.”
“As history has repeatedly shown, alliances between the U.S. intelligence community and giant corporations that collect data on American citizens can be a toxic combination where the U.S. Constitution is concerned,” the letter said.
In a June 9 letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee, Google director for public policy Pablo Chavez asserted that Google “mistakenly included code in our software that collected samples of ‘payload data’” from private WiFi networks. But review of a patent application from Google covering the gathering of WiFi data published Jan. 28 shows that the data collection program was a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks.
The letter continued:
“…what the patent does show is that Google’s recent claims about how the Street View program was designed are not accurate, and that the company always intended to collect and store the ‘packets’ of wireless data that contain so-called payload information.
“The patent makes repeated reference to ‘capturing’ packets, including paragraph , which states that the system will enable geolocations so long as the equipment being used ‘is able to capture and properly decode a packet…’
“This raises serious questions about whether Google has engaged in a reckless effort to amass private data without giving any thought to the possible misuse of that information, and whether it can be trusted to safeguard the information it collects from the prying eyes of the U.S. government.”
Read the patent here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/US20100020776.pdf
Read the letter here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LtrWaxman071910.pdf
In addition, White House visitor logs show that Alan Davidson, Google’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, has had at least three meetings with officials of the National Security Council since the beginning of last year. One of the meetings was with White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul, while another was with Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro.
It has also been widely reported that Google has been working in “partnership” with the National Security Agency, the very same government body that illegally intercepted the private communications of millions of Americans during the Bush administration.