Posted by: Thomas Hendrick, News Editor
3:52 pm MDT May 26, 2009
6:11 pm MDT May 26, 2009
BACKGROUND: The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention estimates 76 million food borne illness cases occur in the United
States every year. This amounts to one in four Americans becoming ill after
eating foods contaminated with pathogens such as E. Coli O157: H7,
Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus and Listeria.
Every year about
325,000 people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of food poisoning and 5,000
die. The annual dollar cost in terms of medical expenses, lost wages and
productivity ranges from $6.5 to $34.9 billion.
While most food borne
illness cases go unreported to health departments, nearly 13.8 million food
poisoning cases are caused by known agents -- 30 percent by bacteria, 67
percent by viruses, and 3 percent by parasites.
FDA and Food
Safety: A new
report calls for a radical overhaul of the U.S. food safety system, including
the creation of a separate food safety administration with its own food
safety czar. Many food safety experts and consumer activists are also
lobbying Congress to spend more time and money fixing America's food safety
Currently, the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees 80 percent of the country's food
supply, yet experts argue it doesn't have the staff or resources to keep up
with its assignments.
"The FDA really
has mission impossible," said Carolyn Smith DeWaal, Director of the
Program on Food Safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"It's in charge of the safety of drugs, medical devices and the majority
of the food supply. It's not surprising that the agency really has not done
an adequate job in this mission of food safety, because it's almost
impossible to do everything perfectly. It's lacked sufficient staff and
resources. They don't have the inspectors they need and Congress is taking
steps to address this, but right now we're still seeing the results of many
years of neglect."
Currently, a dozen
federal agencies share responsibility for ensuring the safety of the nation's
food supply. "We're asking Congress to consider steps to separate drugs
and medical device approvals from the food safety functions and perhaps even
appoint a new commissioner of food safety and nutrition," DeWaal said.
Passing New Laws: Most of the bills on the table in
Washington address the tracing of food products. The FDA Globalization Act
overhauls the structure of the agency and extends food processing
traceability recordkeeping requirements to restaurants and farms. It would
also create production standards for produce.
In the Senate, the FDA
Food Modernization Act would also expand FDA access to records in a food
emergency, and require importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers. A
third proposal would split the FDA into two agencies -- one responsible for
food safety and a second responsible for regulations of drugs and devices.
It also calls for
preventive controls and stronger inspections. The new FDA would also have
power to conduct on-farm inspections. "Comprehensive legislation should
clearly include more enforcement provisions," DeWaal said. "We
really need to give the FDA watch dog more teeth to do the job."
INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Center for Food Borne Illness