August 20, 1998
Kathleen McShea, email@example.com
Consumer Union Washington, D. C. Office
WASHINGTON – Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, issued the following statement reacting to the release of the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Medicine report to Congress entitled, “Ensuring Safe Food from Production to Consumption.”
“The effects of food poisoning can range from upset stomach and diarrhea to dehydration, organ failure-and even death. The risks are greatest for older people, those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, infants, and children. With an estimated 9,000 deaths and 81 million illnesses attributable to unsafe food in the United States each year, it is clear that current food safety policy needs immediate attention.
“The current food safety system is too fragmented and too complex to have the kind of impact on protecting consumers health that Americans expect. Consumers Union urges federal policy makers in Congress and the agencies to make food safety a top priority and move in the direction suggested by the National Academy of Sciences in this report.
“Consumers Union is enthusiastic about the proposal to have a Food Safety Czar appointed to be responsible and accountable for this important issue. Because the official with the responsibility also needs the power to get things done, CU is pleased that the National Academy of Sciences has recommended equipping them with a full arsenal of weapons including:
- meaningful civil penalties for serious violations of the food safety laws, which the Agriculture Department does not yet have;
- the power to reach all potential contamination points in the food production, processing and transportation system; and,
- improved powers to assure that imported foods meet U.S. standards, including inspections by exporting nations’ food safety authorities that are equivalent to U.S. inspections.
The report did not recommend a single federal food agency as the only solution to the problem of policing food contamination. But Consumers Union believes such a proposal would be the right place to start.
“Furthermore, Consumers Union believes it is critical that a federal food safety program deter smaller risks from growing into larger ones. Such a revamped food safety program should also guard against chemical and micro-biological risks as well as contaminants that threaten health with long-term exposure.
“Finally, consumers must also be prepared to do their part to keep the food they eat safe. When preparing food for yourself or your family, consumers can minimize the risk of food-borne illness by handling the food with care, storing food as quickly as possible and taking measures to assure food is not undercooked.”
NOTE: To receive Consumers Union 2-page “Food Safety Tips,” please dial our fax back line at 202/ 238-9258 and request document number 3509.