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Focus on Food Safety

Updated January 2011 -

The year 2010 saw incidents of food-borne illness from common foods such as eggs, spinach, tomatoes, ground beef, peanut butter, candy, pet food, and cookie dough    The nearly weekly investigations and recalls of various foods items from the USA and abroad created ever- mounting  pressure on the US Congress to take action and revise the nation’s food safety laws. 

In December 2010, the first major overhaul of the food-safety system since the1930s was adopted by the Congress and then signed into law by President Barack Obama in early January 2011.  The law calls for increasing government inspections at food-processing facilities and, for the first time, gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to order the recall of unsafe foods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year 1 out of 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food borne diseases. 12/2010

With increased regulation opposed by many family-owned and organic farmers, the legislation still needs to be funded and with the change in the control of the US House of Representatives funding might be a huge problem. The law does set standards and now shifts the focus to other countries that export food stuffs into the United States. A January poll of consumers in China indicated that more than 70% did not have confidence in the safety of their [nation’s] food supply. China is a large supplier of food to North America. It remains to be seen if food exporting countries will raise the bar on food safety in the future as a result of the US’s action.

Food Safety will continue to be a focus of interest of corporations, Congress and the public and AC subscribers will be able to read about it all here under the Hot Topic of Food Safety.

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Food…trust – and provider accountability -- the three terms clearly go together. We consume food hundreds, even thousands of miles from its origination.  Trust is everything!  Anything we put in our bodies every day should be “trustworthy,” in terms of where it came from -- and everyone involved in the food supply chain should be accountable for their actions (or inaction in certain cases).  From grower / farmer / planter / rancher to food processor to retailer or food service or restaurant…and then to each of us – there is a clear chain of accountability. Trust is the important foundation all along the human food chain – preserving trust should be an imperative for every player.  And yet, accidents do happen.  Each year in the United States tainted foods cause an estimated 75 million illnesses resulting in more than 300,000 hospitalizations and as many as 5,000 deaths or more. (World-wide food hazards kill more than 1.8 million people each year, mostly affecting children.)

The impact on the U.S. economy in medical costs alone top $6.5 billion with maybe two or three times that number in financial losses to business, industry and government.  More and more of the food items that we in the U.S.A. consume come to our shores from foreign and third world production and processing sources, where there can be a lack of adequate sanitation or proper food handling procedures and oversight.

Even here in America, numerous food processing issues arise each year, typically involving incidents of food-borne illnesses originating from such biological hazards as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, and these and more continue to be significant public health threats. Those at greatest risk are children, senior citizens, pregnant women and their unborn children, and those with impacted immune systems.

There is heightened interest in food safety issues on the part of consumers and their advocates; government officials at the federal, state and local levels; the healthcare community; media; and food, retailing and restaurant industries. The nation has made great progress in identifying harmful food production technologies, ramping up safety procedures, and adopting rules and regulations and to promote safer methods of handling and preparing foods.

Food Safety is all about Accountability – and trust.  The AC Hot Topic – Food Safety section is designed to present timely and useful news and information, a range of commentary, and reports on research on food safety topics.  The objective: To improve and expand the public dialogue and contribute to the goal of safer food sources, processing and monitoring for all citizens.  As always, we are interested in your comments on this important topic.

 


Latest on Focus on Food Safety

August 19, 2011 Honey laundering: tainted and counterfeit Chinese honey floods into the U.S

Source: Grist

A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. A Food Safety News investigation has documented that millions of...

August 18, 2011 The salmonella outbreak of 2008, deconstructed

Source: LA Times

During the salmonella outbreak of 2008 and 2009 nine people died, 166 were hospitalized and more than 700 fell ill. Authorities ultimately traced the contamination of Salmonella Typhimurium back to a particular company producing...

August 17, 2011 Kohl Proposal Would Add More Food Safety Inspection Jobs

Source: Wisconsin AG

U.S. Senator Herb Kohl says one of his major goals before leaving office later next year is to help improve food safety. During a visit to Ocean Spray cranberry company in Wisconsin Rapids this week, the Milwaukee Democrat...

August 17, 2011 USDA comes to aid of chicken industry with $40M purchase

Source: Chicago Tribune

The United States is stepping in to help bail out another American industry -- chicken farmers and meat processors. The nation's chicken industry is having a difficult year. Chicken producers are struggling with higher costs of...

August 16, 2011 Canada Moves to Downgrade Food Safety Oversight

Source: Food Integrity Campaign

Disappointing news came from Canada on Friday with the government's decision to remove meat inspectors from more than 100 plants in three provinces by 2014, as a means to cut costs. Industry monitoring itself is never a good...

August 15, 2011 Tainted beef leads to grocery recalls

Source: Forbes

DODGE CITY, Kan. -- At least three major grocery store chains are recalling certain packages of ground beef due to possible E. coli contamination. The recalls at Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Publix Super Markets Inc. and Kroger Co....

August 12, 2011 China's Food Safety System a Satire of U.S.?

Source: Food Whistlerblower.org

Keeping deliberate obstructions of food integrity under control seems like an impossible task for Chinese government officials. Perhaps, however, it’s just a blown-up version of what we face in the U.S., where oversight gaps and...

August 12, 2011 CDC updates details of ground turkey-linked salmonella outbreak

Source: LA Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 107 people in 31 states have been infected with a drug-resistant strain of salmonella that was detected in ground turkey earlier this year. Last Friday, the Los...

August 11, 2011 36 million pounds of salmonella-tainted proof that our food safety system is broken

Source: Grist

If Cargill's 36 million pounds of antibiotic-resistant-salmonella-tainted turkey that sickened 77 people and killed one (at last count) proves anything, it's this: The government's approach to regulating disease-causing pathogens...

August 10, 2011 China says it’s cracking down amid anger over tainted food

Source: Washington Post

BEIJING — “Bodybuilder” pigs given illegal growth hormones in their feed. Harmful additives to make pork taste like beef. Outdated steamed buns painted with coloring to look new. Formaldehyde in a popular Sichuan dish. Exploding...

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