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Food safety system needs drastic overhaul

Monday, October 01, 2007

Beef Recall Shows Food Safety System Needs Drastic Overhaul
CU Calls for Single Agency, Mandatory Recall Authority to Ensure Safety of Food

Washington, DC— Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, is calling for mandatory recall authority for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a single food agency to ensure better safety of our nation’s food supply.
On Saturday it was announced that 21 million pounds of beef made its way into the marketplace that might be contaminated with the potentially deadly E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. This is several months’ worth of meat production which is supposed to be inspected daily by the USDA.
“The system is broken. Recalls and inspections have failed miserably,” said Jean Halloran, CU’s Director of Food Policy Initiatives. “Clearly we need a single food agency with the tools, resources and leadership to focus on one clear mission — food safety,” added Halloran.
In August, people began to get sick from the beef in question, yet it took nearly six weeks before the first recall was issued. “Both the FDA and USDA need mandatory recall authority. The safety of our food should not be dependent on voluntary action by companies,” added Halloran.
In a national Consumers Union poll in 2004, 97 percent of respondents agreed that the government should have mandatory recall authority for contaminated meat. Mandatory recall authority is lacking for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA.

Jennifer Fuson, 202-462-6262