Food Safety

V. Key Issues: Population Health >> E. Health Protection >> Food Safety

 

Policy Problem

The FDA is responsible for about 80 percent of the food that Americans consume.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Foodborne illnesses sicken one quarter of the population every year;
  • 300,000 require hospitalization
  • 5,000 die annually.

FoodSafety.gov claims that:

  • one in six Americans will get sick from food poisoning this year. Most of them will recover without any lasting effects from their illness. For some, however, the effects can be devastating and even deadly.”
  • Approximately 3,000 die a year.

The president’s Food Safety Working Group on July 7 issued a Fact Sheet identifying key food safety issues:

  • Salmonella bacteria cause over a million illnesses each year in the United States – including fever, diarrhea, and even death. The CDC has found that Salmonella is the most common bacterial cause of foodborne illness.
  • The bacterial strain called E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in approximately 70,000 Americans each year. In an estimated one in 15 patients, complications arise potentially resulting in intense pain, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and even death. In recent years, this bacterium has caused outbreaks associated with meat and spinach.
  • A system that permits rapid traceback to the source of foodborne illness will protect consumers and help industry recover faster. Yet despite the dedicated efforts of food safety officials across the country, our current capacity to traceback the sources of illness suffers from serious limitations.
  • Building a more effective safety system requires federal agencies to improve management of their food safety responsibilities and coordinate more effectively with each other.

Policy Options

The president’s Food Safety Working Group has recommended a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: (1) prioritizing prevention; (2) strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and (3) improving response and recovery. Their report identifies 12 policy recommendations to address the four issues cited above.

Text of S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of the food supply.

The FDA has proposed new rules that the agency has estimated will prevent about 1.75 million illnesses a year (out of 48 million that occur).

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