SEATTLE - Just in the last three weeks, the federal Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has announced recalls of some brands of beef
bouillon, baby formula, cookies, parsley and imported dried plums and
apricots. A new survey shows major concern about where Americans' food
comes from and who makes sure it is safe.
Erik Olson is the director of food and consumer products safety for the Pew Health Group
His organization surveyed 1,000 people across the country. They said
the government should have three major food safety priorities, he
"Make sure our imported foods are safe; that we're testing food and any
test results showing contamination are reported to the federal
government; and have a good, strong system for tracing contamination."
The FDA recently started a "Reportable Food Registry." It requires
companies to contact the agency within 24 hours of any report that a
product may cause a health risk to humans or animals.
In 2009, 10 times more "Class One" recalls already have been issued
than three years ago, although food safety experts say that is partly
because they are able to trace problems more accurately now. A "Class
One" recall is issued when the federal inspectors believe a product
could have serious health consequences.
Olson says most people surveyed do not believe food facilities are inspected nearly often enough.
"FDA inspects food facilities, on average, only once every 10 years,
and three out of four people thought there should be more frequent FDA
inspections - every six to 12 months, at least."
Food safety advocates are encouraging the Senate to consider
legislation giving the FDA new oversight and enforcement powers. In
July, the House passed its version of the bill, which includes stronger
inspection authority for food facilities in the United States and in
other countries. Some push-back has come from the food industry, which
warns more testing could result in higher consumer prices.
Olson says 64 percent of the people surveyed voiced concerns about the safety of imported foods.
Results of the Pew Health Group
poll are available at www.pewtrusts.org
. The FDA posts all of its recalls online at www.recalls.gov