Milestone Measure to Advance Food Safety Passes Congress

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Milestone Measure to Advance Food Safety Passes Congress

WASHINGTON - The nation's food safety system is responsible for
3,000 deaths each year, and 48 million illnesses annually <http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101215.html>
, according to newly
released data from the federal Centers for Disease Control.  Landmark
federal legislation enacted today by Congress should significantly
reduce that terrible human toll.

"It's simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, with all our
technology and know-how, 48 million Americans - that's a one in six  --
contract food-borne illnesses every year,"
said Ken Cook,
president and co-founder of Environmental Working
Group (EWG), which has campaigned for nearly 20 years to modernize the
U.S. agriculture system and rid the food supply of pesticides and other
industrial pollutants. "This bill can serve as the cornerstone of a truly modern food policy. But we have
to look beyond acute episodes of food poisoning, serious as they are. Our research shows that Americans, even
infants in the womb <http://www.ewg.org/minoritycordblood/home> , are being bombarded with pesticides, industrial chemicals
and other toxic substances that make their way into food."

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) worked hard to include a
provision in the food safety bill that would have restricted the use of
the toxic plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and
sippy cups, but an 11th hour call
from top industry lobbyists <http://www.enviroblog.org/2010/11/polluting-babies-it-just-takes-a-phone-call.html>
 to key Republican senators killed her proposal.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, which now goes to President Obama for
his signature, would establish rigorous, modern food inspections aimed
at preventing food adulterated by E. coli, salmonella and other
contaminants from reaching supermarkets, restaurants
and family dinner tables.

The measure gives more responsibility to farmers and producers to stop
contamination and authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
order recalls. Under current law, the agency can recommend but not force
recalls of possibly tainted food from stores
and restaurants.

"The last time any steps were taken to improve food safety in
country the image of Grant Wood's American Gothic was the reality on
most farms,"
added Cook.
"Today's agricultural landscape is dominated by huge corporate
operations that are often the source of outbreaks.  The FDA will be
empowered with more inspectors and more authority to recall suspect food
immediately, and will hold food producers responsible
for assuring their facilities are clean."

The big chemical agriculture interests, led by United Produce
and Western Growers threatened to kill the bill in the House over a
provision that would exempt some small family farms from certain
regulations.  

Cook added: "EWG will be a watchdog on this law to make sure it
protects people from food-borne illness without placing an unacceptable
regulatory burden on the small farms and companies that are driving the
exciting, emergent local food movement."

The champions in Congress who deserve much of the credit for modernizing
a food safety system are Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin
(D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WI) and Representatives John Dingell (D-MI), Henry
Waxman (D-CA), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Frank
Pallone (D-NJ).

Numerous public interest groups worked tirelessly to ensure safer food
for all Americans including U.S. PIRG and the Make Our Food Safe
Coalition including Consumers Union, Pew Charitable Trusts and Center
for Science in the Public Interest.

 

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The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.

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