U.S. Senators urge full funding of the Food Safety Modernization Act after the deadly Blue Bell Listeria monocytogenes outbreak and the recall of potentially contaminated pasta salad at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest. FSMA has been underfunded by less than half the amount it needs for full implementation since it was signed into law four years ago.
The Senators include Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter states, in part, “The Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted to bring our nation’s food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred. Prevention is key given that food borne pathogens cause an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually.
“Providing the President’s requested increase of $109.5 million would enable FDA to retrain inspectors in the new prevention-based oversight system; hire technical experts to assist growers and food manufacturers to understand and comply with the new requirements; and build the new comprehensive food import oversight system provided for in the law.”
The Blue Bell Listeria monocytogenes outbreak has sickened at least 10 people and killed 3 so far. The states involved in this outbreak are Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Unfortunately, the Preventive Controls rule, which is designed to reduce the impact of food borne pathogens, has not yet been finalized. Some of the steps in that new rule would require food manufacturers to identify and implement preventive control measures, such as increased factory testing, to help catch these deadly pathogens before they enter the food supply.