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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

June 13, 2011 Germany still trying to resolve how sprouts were contaminated with E. coli

Source: Washington Post

BERLIN — German authorities said Sunday that they haven’t yet been able to resolve how sprouts at a farm became contaminated with an aggressive strain of E. coli that has been blamed for 35 deaths.

June 13, 2011 Styrene in Food Containers May Cause Cancer

Source: NY Times

WASHINGTON — The government added styrene and seven other chemicals to its list of possible human carcinogens in a report delayed for years because of fierce lobbying from manufacturers. Styrene is found in foam coffee cups, food...

June 10, 2011 E. coli outbreak typifies foodborne illness threat

Source: Marketwatch

SAN FRANCISCO — Eggs. Peanut butter. Meat. Tomatoes. Spinach. They’re not just staples of our diet. They’ve been the sources of widespread, often mysterious foodborne illness over the years.

June 10, 2011 Germany says sprouts most likely source of e.coli

Source: Reuters

New data has confirmed that bean sprouts are the most likely source of the deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany, German health authorities said on Friday.

June 9, 2011 E. coli Outbreak Underscores U.S. Food Safety Leadership

Source: Forbes

Not surprisingly, the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany has generated a steady stream of comment by American officials and media on similar U.S. vulnerability. The adequacy of our regulatory apparatus is being depicted (again)...

June 9, 2011 European E. coli sicknesses rise

Source: Houston Chronicle

BERLIN — Germany's national disease control center says another person has died in the European E. coli outbreak and 160 more people have been reported ill, but that the rate of new sicknesses is continuing to...

June 8, 2011 German Minister: New Cases Of E. Coli Go Down

Source: National Public Radio

A decline in the number of new infections in a deadly bacterial outbreak gives reason for hope that the epidemic is abating, Germany's health minister said Wednesday before an E.coli crisis meeting

June 8, 2011 Major E.coli outbreaks decline, salmonella up (US)

Source: Reuters

The United States has made headway fighting a deadly E.coli, but a lethal outbreak in Germany and a lack of progress against Salmonella show how much remains to be done to keep food safe, health officials said on Tuesday.

June 7, 2011 EU seeks E. coli solutions as compensation claims grow

Source: Deutsche Welle

German health authorities still don't know the source of the E. coli outbreak, but European ministers are discussing how to react. The first likely decision will be to avoid overhasty public warnings in future.

June 6, 2011 Mr. President, Can You Hear Us Now

Source: Food Safety News

Like the familiar cell phone coverage commercial on television, we are beginning to wonder if the President and his appointees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are...

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