11/18/2009 - Millions of Americans are sickened with food-related illnesses in the United States every year, with hundreds of thousands of people hospitalized and thousands more dying as a result.
Congress has a historic opportunity to address this critical issue. A food safety bill moving through the U.S. Senate this week has strong, bipartisan support. Lawmakers should act quickly to pass the bill by the end of the year and give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enhanced authority to oversee the safety of the nation’s food supply.
People across the country strongly support increased oversight to ensure our food is safe to eat. Recent polls conducted for the Pew Health Group show U.S. voters overwhelmingly support new food safety measures. Multiple high-profile outbreaks in recent years linked to peanut butter products, peppers, spinach and other foods have resulted in illnesses and deaths. Alarmingly, children are the most susceptible to foodborne illnesses and their long-lasting—and too often deadly—consequences. Approximately half of all reported foodborne illnesses occur in children, with the majority of these cases occurring in those under 15 years of age.
This summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a sweeping food safety bill, which includes increased inspections of domestic food facilities and greater oversight of imports. It’s time for the Senate to act now to make our food safe.
Sandra Eskin is the director of the Pew Health Group’s Food Safety Campaign.
This op-ed appeared on The Hill's Congress blog.