The US food supply is among the safest in the world. But, even so:
Each year, 70 million Americans are sickened, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die after consuming contaminated foods and beverages.
More than 56 percent of domestic food manufacturers have gone five or more years without a federal inspection, and regulators can inspect only a small fraction of the foreign firms that ship food to the U.S.
In a report on food traceability, researchers found that only 5 of 40 selected products could be traced through each stage of the food supply chain.
(See this earlier post for even more statistics.)
It's time to update our national food safety laws, and that's why I applaud Congress for passing the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) earlier this month. This legislation represents the first major changes to food safety laws in 70 years, and as such, it will have an impact on virtually all aspects of the food supply chain. The bill allows for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to order mandatory food recalls and requires food facilities to put sorely-needed food safety plans in place.
But, the legislation is far from a fete de complete. The Los Angeles Times reports that this historic effort "may run into trouble next year over an old problem money."
Budget analysts estimate that it will take $1.4 billion over the next five years to hire new inspectors and pay for other aspects of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Given current budget constraints, will the new Congress have an appetite for that kind of appropriation? I'll keep you posted as the story unfolds.
For more details about the Food Safety Modernization Act, see this fact sheet prepared by The Center for Food Safety.