Fri November 1, 2013

Study: FDA Food Safety Delays Cost Colorado, Nation

A new report says despite a 2011 law meant to protect consumers, the incidence of foodborne illness in the U.S. has remained stagnant over the past year.

Several high profile multi-state outbreaks of illnesses have been reported recently -- including listeria, cyclospora, E. Coli, Hepatitis A, and antibiotic-resistant salmonella – at a cost of nearly $22 million.

"Here in Colorado, we’ve just grown accustomed to seeing headlines about tainted foods being recalled and pulled off store shelves," says Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG).

According to a study [.pdf] from the organization, at least 38 people were sickened by contaminated food in Colorado in the last year, racking up $1.1 million in costs for hospitalizations and lost productivity.

That’s especially frustrating, Katz says, since the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, is supposed to give the FDA new tools and powers to prevent problems – rather than just react to them.

"Unfortunately a lot of the rules and regulations have not been implemented yet," he says. "And the agencies in charge of implementing them are just not getting the funding and the support they need."

The most recent outbreaks are really just the tip of the iceberg, Katz says.

"It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Americans will suffer from some foodborne illness over the course of a year. Very few are reported, and of those that are reported, very few of those result in a recall. That’s the data we’re able to see," he says.

CoPIRG and other food safety advocates are calling for full implementation of the FSMA. Some farmers groups have pushed back, however, saying the new rules are overly burdensome.