Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Salmonella Outbreak to Spur US Food Safety


The latest U.S. salmonella outbreak could spur food safety reform in Congress, but the process will be slow and consumers will remain at risk until the shattered regulatory regime can be fixed.

“Congress is poised to take early action on food safety legislation,” said Caroline Smith DeWall, a director of food safety at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The peanut butter-linked salmonella outbreak “should create the incentive for Congress to act quickly to address the nation’s food safety problems,” she said.

The most popular reform proposals focus on giving the Food and Drug Administration more power and financial resources to be proactive; appointing an official full time to food safety; and having companies more involved in product safety.

Legislative ideas also have included combining 15 U.S. agencies that handle food safety into a single entity.

An estimated 76 million people in the United States get sick every year with foodborne illness and 5,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Top U.S. food companies, worried that more food scares may turn away customers and erode confidence in the food supply and FDA, have pushed for stronger food safety legislation. Read more here.