June 5, 2020

U.S. PIRG: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which is the federation of state PIRGs, has released a new report stating that food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken. Contaminated food makes 48,000,000 Americans sick every year, hospitalizes 128,000 and kills 3,000. Those illnesses rack up more than $77,000,000,000 in economic costs. We are deliberately using numbers rather than writing “million” and “billion” to accentuate the seriousness of this situation.

Woman's Torso Food PoisoningNasima Hossain, Public Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG said, “every year we see hundreds of food products recalled, because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. 2012 has already seen nearly twice as many illnesses due to recalls as 2011, with high-profile recalls of cantaloupes and hundreds of thousands of jars of peanut butter. More needs to be done to identify the contaminants that are making us sick and to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food.”

The report states that no progress has been made in reducing foodborne illness in the last year. From January 2011 to September 2012, there were 1753 foodborne illnesses linked to recalls of food products, which caused 464 hospitalizations and 37 deaths. And it states that more needs to be done to protect the consumer against unsafe food. But “important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety have been blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.”

In short, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has not been fully implemented. Critical parts of the Act have been delayed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, and funding has been threatened and cut by Congress. FSMA was designed to give the FDA new power and new tools to protect consumers.

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