New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

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New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Food Recalls Rack Up $227 Million in Economic Costs in 2011 and 2012

WASHINGTON - 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 U.S. PIRG.  Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs.  In the USA over the last 21 months, 1753 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls and the cost was over $227 million.

“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 Nasima Hossain, Public Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG.  “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 U.S.PIRG, 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.

“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 Nasima Hossain.   “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.”

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The report is available at http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/total-food-recall

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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