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Bruce Speight,
WISPIRG

Food Safety Scares 2013: How FDA Delays are Putting American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Food

Foodborne Illness Racks up $22 million in Economic Costs in 2012 and 2013
For Immediate Release

Madison, October 31 – Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delays in implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act have put Wisconsin lives at risk and cost the country $22 million in economic costs, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Here in Wisconsin in the last 12 months, 34 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses and the cost in Wisconsin was $236,604. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year.

“While the FDA delays acting on rules to keep dangerous foods from coming to market, we’ve seen hundreds of food products recalled for causing sickness and in some cases death,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director. “This year has already seen an increase in foodborne illness compared with 2012, with high-profile outbreaks of Cyclospora and antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, and it’s time for the FDA to do more to protect us from the contaminants that are putting American lives at risk.”

According to recall information compiled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), from October 2012 to October 2013 there were:

• 1,494 foodborne Illnesses reported;
• 335 hospitalizations due to foodborne illness;
• 2 deaths;
• 615 incidences of Salmonella linked to food products; and
• 643 incidences of Cyclospora linked to food products.

“Foodborne illnesses can be prevented. It’s unfortunate that so many Americans become sick or even lose their lives because the appropriate protections have not been put in place,” continued Speight. “More should be done to eliminate dangerous pathogens from the food we eat.”

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with strong support from WISPIRG, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.

“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” said Speight. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time in strengthening our food safety systems.”

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WISPIRG, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. www.wispirg.org.

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