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Our Food Safety System

Posted on by Karina

Recent outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella in foods such as spinach, peanuts, and peppers have shown major gaps in our antiquated food safety laws. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year 76 million Americans get sick due to unsafe food products, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food borne hazards. Today, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing on the discussion draft of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which will overhaul and strengthen our nation’s food safety system. As Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) explained in his opening statement, “we have heard time and again that our current food safety system is broken. It is a system that relies heavily on the FDA, rather than placing the responsibility on the manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products. It is a system that is geared toward responding to food outbreaks, rather than one that is aimed at preventing them. This system does not work.”

Read the discussion draft of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009>>

Read a summary of the discussion draft from the Energy & Commerce Committee on provisions in the legislation including creating an up-to-date registry of all food facilities serving American consumers, increasing inspections of food facilities, and providing protection for whistleblowers that bring attention to important safety information>>

Read testimony from the following witnesses:

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration

Michael Ambrosio, Food Marketing Institute, Vice President Quality Assurance Division, Wakefern Food Corporation

Pamela G. Bailey, President and Chief Executive Officer, Grocery Manufacturers Association

Caroline Smith DeWaal, Safe Food Coalition, Food Safety Director Center for Science in the Public Interest

Tim F. Jones, MD, State Epidemiologist, Tennessee Department of Health

Thomas E. Stenzel, President and CEO, United Fresh Produce Association

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO):

DeGette:
“All of this policy that we talk about, it’s all well and good, but I can’t help but think about young Jacob Hurley from Portland, Oregon. He got sick from eating peanut butter crackers, his favorite food. When his parents took him to the doctor, they finally got him stabilized and he wouldn’t eat, so they told the parents ‘Have Jacob just eat what he loves,’ the peanut butter crackers, the very food that had made him sick in the first place. And the only way we found out about this was because the alert commissioner of consumer protection in Oregon showed up personally at his door and confiscated the peanut butter crackers. We need to fix this, we need to fix it now.”

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA):

DeGette:
“Many might consider some of the provisions in this bill burdensome. However, it’s important to look at the opportunity costs of failing to take action to improve food safety. On our March 19th Oversight hearing, I asked David Mackay, who’s the CEO of Kellogg, how much the PCA Salmonella outbreak had cost his company, and he replied ‘Between 65 and 70 million dollars.’ The legislation before us today might have prevented that outbreak, and saved those costs. Most important, however, is what we owe to the families of this country who have been injured or killed by unsafe foods, and the desire to take real action to keep our food supply safe. In 2006, a graduate of Dubuque Wahlert High School in my district, a marathon runner named Jill Kohl, contracted E. Coli from a spinach salad that she ate. After 17 days in the hospital she was released with just 8% of her kidney function, and she now has to see a doctor twice a year to monitor her kidneys. Jill and all other Americans should be able to have faith that their food is safe, and we’re here today to try to restore that faith.”
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