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Give FDA stronger food recall powers, urge US consumers

By Mike Stones , 13-Jul-2010

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should receive full powers immediately to recall food when it threatens health and safety, according to 80 percent of respondents in a telephone survey conducted by Consumers Union Poll.

The organization’s Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives, told FoodNavigatorUSA.com: “The FDA has not caught up with modern food production systems. Most people are shocked to find out that FDA can’t even order a recall - it must request companies to voluntarily retrieve contaminated food.”

It is essential that the Senate passes the bi-partisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, before it adjourns in early August, she added. “The time to do that is now - the overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress to make our food safe now. The bill even has bi-partisan support which is almost unheard of these days.”

Food safety reform

The food safety reform legislation would give FDA the power to recall suspect foods. It would also require the agency to inspect all high-risk food processors at least once a year. At present such food processors can expect a visit once every 10 years.

Most survey respondents told researchers that they thought one visit a month would be appropriate for high-risk food processors.

The Department of Health and Human Services Office confirms that the FDA inspects less than a quarter of all food facilities each year. More than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without an FDA inspection.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey with 1,007 interviews of adults aged over 18.

Last week, President Barak Obama asked the Senate to pass the bill commenting that it: “…addresses longstanding challenges in the food safety and defense system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach to the safety of our food supply and provides the federal government with the appropriate tools to accomplish its core food safety goals.”

Food processors

A recent food safety report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council highlighted gaps in the FDA’s performance in food safety, and recommends that Congress increase the agency’s authority to act. The report urges Congress to require all food processors to register with the FDA which at present is not required under current law.

It also suggests food processors act proactively to prevent foodborne illness, and to tell the FDA when they discover adulterated products.

Meanwhile, each year 76m Americans are sickened, 325,000 hospitalized, and 5,000 die from consuming contaminated food, warns the Centers for Disease Control.

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