Deadly Melons Renew Food Safety Focus; Will Money Follow?

Publication: Reuters

Author: Lisa Baertlein


10/30/2011 - Debbie Frederick hopes that her father's death in September in one of the most lethal outbreaks of food-borne illness in U.S. history will force the government to increase the safety of the country's food supply.

It took more than a decade, a series of deadly outbreaks tied to food like peanuts, spinach and ground beef, as well as a coalition of strange bedfellows -- victims, public health advocates and food industry representatives -- to push through the first major revamp of food safety laws since the 1930s.

But advocates and other experts say the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed by President Barack Obama in January still has shortcomings and worry it will be watered down through a lack of funding.

The United States by most measures has some of the safest food in the world. Still, roughly one in six people get sick from eating tainted products each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The whole system was built to react to people getting sick" or to discoveries of contaminated food, said Erik Olson, the Pew Health Group's director of food programs.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including melons and other produce, requires major structural changes to become primarily focused on prevention, as FSMA envisions. While lawmakers recently have given FDA more money for food programs, it still has lots of catching up to do, Olson said.

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Read the full article, Deadly Melons Renew Food Safety Focus; Will Money Follow?, on Reuters' Web site.

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