TexPIRG Education Fund
Contact: Sara E. Smith, TexPIRG Program Director
Food Safety Scares 2013: How FDA Delays are Putting American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Food
Foodborne Illness Racks up $22 million in Economic Costs in 2012 and 2013
Austin, TX – Despite government commitments to address the problem, some foodborne illnesses are on the rise and the FDA has yet to implement the sweeping 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, designed to prevent such outbreaks, according to a new report by the TexPIRG Education Fund. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year costs. Here in Texas in the last 21 months, 310 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses and the cost in Texas was over $2 million.
“Every year we see hundreds of food products recalled because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. 2013 has already seen an increase in foodborne illness compared with 2012, with high-profile outbreaks of Cyclospora and antibiotic-resistant Salmonella” said Sara Smith, TexPIRG Education Fund Program Director. “More needs to be done to prevent the contaminants that are making us sick and from putting American lives at risk. In 2010 Congress passed the Food Modernization Safety Act – this is the first major overhaul of food safety legislation since 1938. We fought to get it passed – now we want to see it implemented.”
According to recall information compiled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), from October 2012 to October 2013 there were:
- 1,494 foodborne Illnesses reported;
- 335 hospitalizations due to foodborne illness;
- 2 deaths;
- 615 incidences of Salmonella linked to food products; and
- 643 incidences of Cyclospora linked to food products.
Many members of Congress have echoed the TexPIRG Education Fund’s call for implementation, including Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX35). “Congress acted to protect our families from foodborne illnesses with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Now it’s time for the FDA to put this law to work to prevent people from getting sick, missing work or school,” said Rep. Doggett. The TexPIRG Education Fund continues to work closely with Representative Doggett to ensure that Texas families can put safe and nutritious meals on their table.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with strong support from TexPIRG, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.
“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” said Smith. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time in strengthening our food safety systems.”
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TexPIRG, the Texas Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.