Food Safety Update — Report Underscores Need for Enhanced Legislation to Protect Americans

Publication: Today's Dietitician

Author: David Yeager


06/09/2010 - Governing bodies aim to improve more than just the safety of produce as they take steps toward instituting stricter regulations.

From bags of spinach to products containing peanuts and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, numerous food recalls have made news in the last four years. At times, it seems as though a biblical plague has been set upon our daily bread. And with food recalls continuing to grab headlines, the finding of a report issued on March 3 by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University should come as no surprise: The cost of food-borne illness is higher than previously estimated.

The report found that food-borne illness costs Americans an estimated $152 billion each year, of which $39 billion is directly attributable to produce. That cost includes doctor and hospital visits, medications, lost wages and productivity, functional disabilities, and death. While most studies look only at a few types of pathogens, this study looked at a more comprehensive set—bacteria, parasites, and viruses—and included in its calculations food poisoning cases from unknown sources as well as broader cost measures. These factors are a significant reason for the higher estimate. And while the numbers are attention grabbing, they don’t necessarily mean that our food is less safe.

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“If you’re talking about fresh fruits and vegetables, it could be contaminated water that’s used to irrigate. It could be manure that’s not sufficiently composted. It could be wild animal manure somewhere on the field. That’s just looking at the production side. Food can get contaminated all along the production chain from other products or sources,” says Sandra Eskin, director of the Pew Health Group’s Food Safety Campaign. “For example, a possible source of Listeria monocytogenes in a food production facility could be a leaking air conditioner. And in that condensation, there is bacteria that drips onto a belt.”

Read the full article, Report Underscores Need for Enhanced Legislation to Protect Americans, on the Today's Dietician Web site.

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