Egg Recalls Reveal Scrambled Food Safety System

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Brad Ashwell

Florida PIRG

TALLAHASSEE, September 8– Last month’s nationwide recall of half a billion eggs was just one of more than 85 recalls involving 153 food companies since July 2009.  During this time, the U.S. Senate has failed to pass needed protections, according to “Recipe for Disaster”, a Study released today by Florida PIRG, Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

According to this study, 54 recalls have occurred in Florida due to contamination by Salmonella and other bacteria related to food borne illness in the last 14 months.  For example, back in July of this year, 7,296 packages of apples were recalled in Florida due to dangers from the incredibly virulent food borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.  And then in August, Florida was also affected by a nationwide food recall of Macaroni and Cheese recall.  The food was already on store shelves or in Floridian kitchens when these recalls were announced.

“Too many of us heard about the egg recall as we sat down for breakfast and had to wonder where the omelet on our plate came from,” said Florida PIRG Food Safety Associate Patrick Gittard.  “The egg recall which resulted in over 1,400 illnesses is only part of the preventable problem.  We have a failed food safety net, and we have been waiting 14 months for the Senate to finish the job of fixing it.”

In July 2009, the House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) to update our food safety net. In November 2009, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its version of the bill, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510); but no floor action has yet been scheduled in the Senate, and Americans continue to be at risk.

Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farm’s voluntary recall happened two and a half months after the first Salmonella illness was detected because the FDA does not have the authority or resources to properly safeguard our food. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would update the 70 year old law governing the FDA: requiring mandatory inspection frequency, stronger traceback provisions, and mandatory recall authority.

 “We need a food safety system that can prevent unsafe food from making it to our breakfast and dinner tables, and that moves quickly when there are problems,” said Gittard.  “Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) should waste no time in bringing this important public health measure to the Senate floor.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that tens of millions of Americans get sick every year from food borne illnesses like Salmonella and E. coli, with hundreds of thousands hospitalized and 5,000 deaths each year.  The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of much of the food sold in the U.S., has not had its authority updated in seventy years.

Click here for a copy of the study.

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Florida PIRG (The Florida Public Interest Research Group) is a statewide non-partisan, non-profit, public interest advocacy group fighting for stronger consumer protections a more vital democracy and to improve the public health.

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