Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, has released new poll data showing that 80% of Americans want Congress to immediately give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to recall food when it poses a danger to health and safety.
FDA food safety reform legislation that would give FDA that power, as well as require it to inspect all high-risk food processors at least once a year, passed the House of Representatives a year ago but is now stalled awaiting Senate action. The poll is at buysafeeatwell.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/FDA-Legislation-June10.doc.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress to make our food safe now," says Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. "Most people are shocked to find out that FDA can't even order a recall—it must request companies to voluntarily retrieve contaminated food. It is essential that the Senate pass S. 510, the bi-partisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, before it adjourns in early August."
President Obama last week also asked the Senate to pass the bill, noting it, "[a]ddresses longstanding challenges in the food safety and defense system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach to the safety of our food supply and provides the Federal Government with the appropriate tools to accomplish its core food safety goals."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year, 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 hospitalized, and 5,000 die from consuming contaminated food. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General has reported 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.
A recent report on food safety by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council also notes the many gaps in the FDA's current performance in food safety, and recommends that Congress increase the agency's authority to act. The report urges that Congress require all food processors to register with the FDA (which is not required under current law), to act proactively to prevent foodborne illness, and tell the FDA when they discover adulterated products. S. 510 accomplish all of these things.