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BALTIMORE, 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 Maryland PIRG, Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
According to this study, 56 recalls have occurred in Maryland due to contamination by Salmonella and other bacteria related to food borne illness in the last 14 months. For example, in March, Marylanders learned of potato chip and other seasoned product recalls for salmonella contamination. In June it was breakfast cereal. By August, recalls of ground beef and eggs had left consumers doubting the safety of their food, which was already on store shelves or in Marylander’s kitchens when these recalls were announced.
“Too many of us heard about the egg recall as we sat down to breakfast and had to wonder where the omelet on our plate came from,” said Jenny Levin, Public Health Associate with Maryland PIRG. “The problem is more than just eggs. It’s our failed food safety net and the 14 months we’ve had to wait 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.
“This report reinforces that the high number of recent food-borne recalls has caused many Americans to become sick and has shaken confidence in our food safety system. I urge the Senate to pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act so that Congress can enact comprehensive food safety reform to ensure that the food Americans consume is safe” says Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who supported the House version of the bill in 2009.
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.
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