State to e-mail food safety alerts

Info on illnesses, recalls also to be text messaged

Diane Ivey • Capital News Service • January 5, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

 

Source of Article:  http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20090105/NEWS01/901050321/1002/NEWS01

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News about the latest food recalls is now less than a phone call away with the state Department of Agriculture's new food safety text message alert program.

 

Subscribers will receive information, via text message or e-mail, about food-borne illnesses and product recalls, according to Agriculture Director Don Koivisto.

Cooperative project

The service, which started during National Food Safety Month in September, is part of the MDA's continuing program to raise awareness about food-borne illnesses and the importance of food safety, he said.

"Thanks to emerging technologies, we are able to warn consumers almost instantly to avoid or discard recalled food products," Koivisto said. "This ensures public health is protected and maintains the viability of the state's food safety net."

The program is part of a cooperative project by the departments of Agriculture and Information Technology.

"Our strong partnership with Agriculture has resulted in this potentially life-saving new service that will prevent unnecessary illnesses and help to protect the health of Michigan citizens," said Ken Theis, director of the IT Department.

Alerts will be sent when there is a Class I food recall, according to Jennifer Holton, a communications officer for Agriculture.

A Class I recall occurs when a product is deemed unsafe or unfit for human consumption, and if consumed, may cause serious health consequences or death, Holton said.

Major recalls up 56%

There has been a 56 percent increase in the number of such recalls affecting Michigan, she said, citing 62 recalls in 2006 and 97 in 2007.

Koivisto said it's critical to quickly get information to citizens.

A recent example was tainted baby formula that resulted in kidney stones and kidney failure for 50 babies in China.

Although the problem didn't occur in Michigan, Koivisto said, services like the text message program can spread the word about unsafe products in a fast and efficient way.

"We are now able to share this information with people before they hear or read it in the media," he said.

Preventing sales

As technology becomes more available, state and local health officials will be able to work together with citizens to prevent food-borne illnesses and the selling of recalled items, said Tip MacGuire, director of Tuscola County Health Department's environmental health division.

"An e-mail alert seems like a better idea than a text message alert because more people have access to the Internet," MacGuire said.

"But either way, it's a good idea to get that information out there."

It's important for people to be aware of the latest food recalls, MacGuire said, even if they think it might not affect them.

"There are a lot of recalls out there, and you never know when a recalled item might turn up as an ingredient in your food," he said.

Subscribers may use the department's Web site at www.michigan.gov/mda to sign up for e-mail or text message alerts.

Although the exact number of food-borne illness in the United States is unknown, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 5,000 deaths and 76 million illnesses each year are directly linked to food-borne illnesses.

 

 

 

 

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