Recipe for Disaster

Food Recalls Proliferated While Food Safety Fix Awaits Action in Senate
Released by: CoPIRG

Last month’s nationwide recall of half a billion eggs was just one of more than 85 national recalls involving 153 food companies since July 2009.  During this time, the U.S. Senate has failed to pass needed protections.

In Colorado, 54 recalls have occurred in the 14 month period studied.  For example, last January, Coloradans learned that 1,263,754 pounds of salami was recalled from Colorado and other states. A few months later, Coloradans learned that their state was affected by a recall of 37,318 pounds of peppers.  The food was already on store shelves or in Coloradan’s kitchens when the recall was announced.

In July 2009, led by Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), 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 Coloradans continue to be at risk.

The recent egg recalls is a sign of why action is urgently needed.  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. 

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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