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Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs. Here in Arizona, in the last 21 months, 10 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls and the cost in Arizona was $110,860.
“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,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “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, Total Food Recall: Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives at Risk, analyzed nationwide recall information issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from January 2011 to September 2012. During that period, there were:
- 1,753 foodborne Illnesses directly linked to recalls of food products from known pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella;
- 37 deaths directly linked to recalls of food products; and
- $227 million in economic and health related costs linked to recalls of food products.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with support from Arizona PIRG, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.
“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” said Brown. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time strengthening our food safety systems.”
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