For Immediate Release
Food Safety Bill will Save the Lives of Thousands
WASHINGTON - At
least 5,000 Americans – most of them young children, the elderly and
the sick – die every year from eating contaminated food, according to
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And about 76
million get sick from ingesting food-borne pathogens.
Today the nation is one step closer to reducing that horrendous toll
with the Senate’s passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510)
of 2010 on a strongly bipartisan 73-to-25 vote. It now falls to the
House of Representatives to follow suit during its brief lame duck
session and send this vital measure on for President Obama to sign.
“Unfortunately, the debate over this bill degenerated into a food fight
between various special interests and lost its focus on the most
important point: protecting the lives of the most vulnerable populations
from serious illness or even death from foods tainted with bacteria or
toxic contaminants,” said EWG President and co-founder Ken Cook. “This
is the richest country in the world. The federal government and the food
industry can surely do much better to ensure that the food parents pick
up at the store and prepare at home won’t result in a trip to the
hospital for themselves and their children.”
“We urge the House to promptly take up and enact the Senate-passed version of this legislation,” added Cook.
As an example of the devastating consequences that unsafe food can have,
Cook noted that young children are at serious risk from a particularly
painful and potentially life-threatening condition caused by a strain of
Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. This microbe can trigger hemolytic
uremic syndrome, or HUS, which destroys red blood cells and can quickly
cause acute kidney failure if untreated. More than half of the children
who contract HUS through food end up with kidney failure.
HUS is just one example of the troubling and far too common dangers
Americans face as a result of the nation’s tattered food safety system.
The last time Congress took serious steps to protect the food supply was
in the 1930s, when the population was around 123 million and the small
family farm was the primary source of food. Today, we’re a country of
more than 300 million with a loosely regulated food production landscape
dominated by large, corporate agribusiness and imported produce, meat
The bill passed by the Senate today would put in place a rigorous and
modern food inspection apparatus that would keep food adulterated by E.
coli, salmonella and other contaminants out of supermarkets and
restaurants and off the family dinner table.
It will hand more responsibility to farmers and producers to stop
contamination and give the Food and Drug Administration the power to
order recalls. Under current law, the agency can recommend recalls but
it’s entirely up to the companies whether to pull potentially tainted
food from stores and restaurants.
Much of the work to build support for this legislation in the public
interest community came from groups including the Pew Charitable Trusts,
Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG and many others.
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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.