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ANN ARBOR, October 24 – Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by PIRGIM and U.S. PIRG. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs. Here in Michigan in the last 21 months, 39 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls and the cost in Michigan was $327,888. Recently, the Petoskey-based candy company Kilwins recalled packages of fudge due to a possible salmonella contamination in a supplier’s facility.
“Every year we see hundreds of food products recalled because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. 2012 has already seen nearly twice as many illnesses due to recalls as 2011, with high-profile recalls of cantaloupes and hundreds of thousands of jars of peanut butter,” said Meghan Hess, advocate for PIRGIM. “More needs to be done to identify the contaminants that are making us sick and to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food.”
The report, “Total Food Recall: Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives at Risk,” analyzed nationwide recall information issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from January 2011 to September 2012. During that period, there were:
- 1,753 foodborne Illnesses directly linked to recalls of food products from known pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella;
- 37 deaths directly linked to recalls of food products; and
- $227 million in economic and health related costs linked to recalls of food products.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with strong support from PIRGIM, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.
Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) was the principal author of the legislation. “The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) was a large step forward in securing the safety of our food supply,” said Rep. Dingell. “However, this report makes clear that our work is not done. Congress must ensure FDA has the funding and personnel it needs to better oversee the industry, including the ability to implement the rules and regulations laid out in FSMA. There is no question that the safety of American families is a top priority. FSMA has set that precedent for our food standards; its full implementation will only lead to a healthier country.”
“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” said Hess. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time in strengthening our food safety systems.”
The report is available at http://pirgim.org/reports/mip/total-food-recall
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PIRGIM, the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.
For more information visit http://www.pirgim.org
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