Photo: Orlin Wagner / AP Photo
Over the past 70 years, the U.S. has seen drastic changes in food operation, including the introduction of industrial agriculture and mass foodborne illnesses. And yet standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have barely changed, save for the USDA's and FDA's joint egg inspection plan introduced on July 9th.
The outdated rules have left the FDA with insufficient funds and without authority to order recalls -- that call, believe it or not, is left to the individual companies, which often wait too long, resulting in a slew of consumer illness reports. A new bill -- the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) -- would finally update standards and give the FDA the power it now needs to better moderate our current system, including conducting more frequent inspections of high-risk facilities. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives over a year ago, on July 30, 2009, and has been sitting with the Senate ever since.
Fed up with the Senate's lag on approval of a complete updated food safety bill, a coalition of victims and public health organizations (under the advocacy group Make Our Food Safe) headed to Washington, D.C., yesterday afternoon, armed with a report of all the recalls made over the past 13 months since the bill was passed by the House. Participating organizations include the American Public Health Association, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention and the Consumers Union.
The report, released yesterday, is titled "Recipe for Disaster: Food Recalls Proliferated While Food Safety Awaits Action in Senate," and details information collected by the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. It states that our recent egg recall is just one in 85 recalls involving 153 food companies from August 1, 2009 to present, accounting for 1,850 reported illnesses.
This includes recalled items where no illnesses were reported, such as ground red pepper recalled for Salmonella from Adams Extract & Spice on 8/7/2009, affecting three states; 6,712.5 lbs of roasted hazelnut kernels recalled for Salmonella from Evonuk Oregon Hazelnuts on 12/19/2009, affecting six states; and 1,105 cases of Chicken of the Sea white tuna in water recalled for tain bacteria from Tri-Union Seafoods on 6/30/2010, affecting ten states. Then there's the more familiar recalls like alfafa sprouts from Caldwell Fresh Foods, which caused 44 illnesses from this May and, of course, shell eggs from Wright County Egg, which caused 1,470 illnesses from August 13. How about 68,957 lbs of Morningland Dairy cheese, recalled on 8/30/2010? The list goes on for five and a half pages.
The Senate is set to reconvene after recess on September 13, hopefully with all these incriminating numbers in mind. The full report can be download right here through U.S.PIRG.