Consumers want more and tougher food safety efforts


November 12, 2008

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Concerns over food safety appears to be one more thing that Americans want shoved onto President-elect Obama's overflowing plate to make their government more responsive.

According to a poll by Consumer Reports, the vast majority of citizens want "Country of Origin Labeling" loopholes closed and the Food and Drug Administration to inspect the domestic and foreign food supply every month.

Some of the people rumored to be on Obama's short list to head the FDA have publicly supported this type of increased surveillance in speeches and articles.

"The American public wants to know more about their food, where it comes from, how safe it is, and will vote with their dollars to support highly meaningful labels," says Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union

While 73 percent of those polled by the Consumer Reports National Research Center currently regard the overall food supply as safe, nearly half said their confidence in the safety of the nation's food supply has decreased, the public interest research group said.

In addition, 83 percent of respondents are concerned with harmful bacteria or chemicals in food and 81 percent are concerned with the safety of imported food.

The great area of concern the pollsters found was the frequency that the government inspects food production facilities.

While USDA inspects meat plants daily, FDA inspects domestic food production facilities once every 5 to 10 years, and foreign facilities even less frequently, Rangan said.

The American public, however, expects the FDA to conduct hands-on reviews of food-processing plants far more often. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said the FDA should inspect domestic and foreign food-processing facilities at least once a month.

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meats, fish, produce and peanuts was finally implemented on Sept. 30, but 80 percent say there are large loopholes that consumers want closed.

For example, the group said that meat and poultry sold in butcher shops and fish sold in fish markets -- 11 percent of all meat and fish -- are currently exempt from country-of-origin labeling.

For more on what consumers cared about, here is a link to the poll results.




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