The regulatory activities governing food safety continue to pose a “high risk” to the economy and public health, declared the Government Accountability Office in January of this year (link) — the consequence of a fragmented legal and organizational structure with insufficient authority and too few resources to protect the American people.
In February, 2009, Congresswoman Rose L. DeLauro* of Connecticut introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act. In addition to establishing a new, separate Food Safety Administration within the USDA, this legislation would provide the regulatory tools to access important records, recall products and penalize companies for knowingly selling tainted products. Separating food safety regulation from drug and device approvals would go a long way toward restoring the balance that has long been missing at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and give food safety the attention it deserves. By establishing a Food Safety Administration within Health and Human Services, headed by its own commissioner, we can give food safety experts and researchers the room and the resources to do their jobs.
ADDED: Rep. DeLauro is married to Stanley Greenburg, who works for Monsanto, which seems not to have been the champion of organic food. /Editor
For years now, the American people have learned to live with the possibility that their food may not be safe. The list of incidents has grown month after month, from spinach to shellfish from ground beef to peppers. This first decade of the 21st century has been rife with significant tainted food outbreaks. Last summer, there was another salmonella outbreak that sickened more than twice as many as this year’s peanut scare — about 1,400 people. A new study by the CDC estimates that as many as one in four Americans contract a foodborne sickness every year — as many as 250 kinds. Only a very few of these are widespread outbreaks. Usually it just results in stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea that the victims sometimes don’t even associate with something they ate.
Sometimes the food isn’t always to blame. A lack of basic hygiene among restaurant employees results in the spread of infectious disease more often than just about anything short of biological warfare. Research has shown that a leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S. is residual fecal matter on the hands of restaurant employees. Tens of millions get sick every year for this reason alone. We’ve all seen the posted instructions in public restrooms, but this obviously has not been effective.
So, besides the cost of eating out, the quality of food in restaurants and where it actually comes from, we now must seriously take into account the employee hygienic issue. Threaten to eat at home unless your favorite restaurant considers the following:
- Place over every sink: ‘Scrub to The Alphabet Song & All Germs Will Be Gone‘
- Install a BIFFY on every commode in employee restrooms for both genders.
- Make non-toxic Waterless Hand Purifier conveniently mandatory in all work areas.
U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-New Haven, represents Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District and serves as the chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee. See also the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 at the Library of Congress website, loc.gov.
ADDED April 14, 2009: HR 875 not so healthy for food supply?
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