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CU urges passage of bi-partisan food safety bill

April 12, 2010

ShopSmart Magazine Decodes the New Rules of Food Safety;
Consumers Union Urges Swift Passage of Bi-Partisan Food Safety Bill

Yonkers, NY—In its May issue cover story, ShopSmart magazine provides extensive consumer advice on how to keep food safe at the store and at home, but notes that some hazards are beyond the ability of even the most careful consumer to avoid. Recognizing the need for fundamental change in our food safety laws, the report, the “New Rules of Food Safety,” highlights the dangers posed by foodborne illness—from peanut butter to spinach, cookie dough to peppers.
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports and ShopSmart, urges the Senate to swiftly pass S. 510, the bi-partisan U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act to fix the problems that consumers can’t solve on their own. The report is available at ShopSmartmag.org.
“You can’t wash Salmonella out of peanut butter, and you can’t cook lettuce to kill E.Coli 0157:H7,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “S. 510 will increase FDA’s inspection of food facilities, and require all food producers to maintain and comply with safety plans. It will bring the FDA’s resources and authorities into the 21st Century to help reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses and keep contaminated foods out of our grocery stores, homes, and restaurants.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year, 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 hospitalized, and 5,000 die from consuming contaminated food. A recent study by former FDA economist Robert L. Scharff estimates that the total economic impact of foodborne illness across the nation is $152 billion annually in healthcare, workplace, and other economic losses.
Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced significant weaknesses in FDA’s inspections of food facilities. In its report, the OIG found that FDA inspects less than a quarter of all food facilities each year, and that more than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without an FDA inspection.
“The OIG report underlines in graphic terms the need for the Senate to pass the FDA food safety reform bill as soon as it gets back to work this week,” said Halloran. “Without new funding, staff, and powers, FDA cannot adequately protect consumers from dangerous food. We need to strengthen the FDA now.”

Naomi Starkman, nstarkman@gmail.com, 917.539.3924-c
Lauren Hackett, lhackett@consumer.org, 914.378.2561