Foodborne illness is preventable, but tragic consequences will continue on a broad scale unless Congress authorizes more inspections, closes senseless loopholes and gives regulators more authority.
Minneapolis, MN (PRWEB) February 25, 2010
National food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker is urging the U.S. Senate to move ahead on legislation that would give increased authority and resources to federal regulators in charge of protecting our food supply.
A continued increase in food recalls and an alarming string of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7, Samonella and other pathogens should compel action on the Food Safety Modernization Act introduced early last March by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. But nearly a year has gone by without meaningful followup.
"Change is long overdue and the country is waiting,'' said Pritzker. "Foodborne illness is preventable, but tragic consequences will continue on a broad scale unless Congress authorizes more inspections, closes senseless loopholes and gives regulators more authority.''
The bill has strong bi-partisan support and is backed by many consumer groups who recognize that America's food saftey system is shockingly ineffective.
Pritzker said Senate leaders should be reminded of the massive Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter in late 2008 and early 2009 that resulted in nine Salmonella deaths and sickened more than 700 others in 46 states. Pritzker Olsen represents the families of three of those who died and part of the momentum for food safety reform came from members of those families who have reached out to Congress with pleas for change.
For instance, Minnesota's Jeff Almer last year provided inspiration to a Congressional food safety panel when he told the story of his mother's victory over cancer. Shirley Almer had recently emerged from her second bout with cancer in 2008, only to be killed toward the end of the year by contaminated peanut butter on her toast.
"Families are always shocked to learn that our nation's food safety system is based in large part by century-old laws,'' Pritzker said. "These outbreaks are preventable and strengthening the hand of regulators will curtail dangerous practices and conditions.''
Important elements of the Senate bill would do the following: 1) authorize the FDA to order immediate, mandatory recalls; 2) allocate inspection resources based on the risk profile of food facilities or food; improve the government's capacity to track and trace raw agricultural commodities; 3) empower FDA to suspend a food facility's registration; 4) require the enhancement of foodborne illness surveillance in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 5) give regulators more access to food company records in an emergency; 6) require new regulations on sanitary food transportation practices.
Once the Senate acts, work could begin on a compromise bill with the House, which passed a similar food safety bill last July. The House bill would increase the frequency of FDA inspections of food processing plants, expand the FDA's traceback capabilities when outbreaks occur, give the FDA mandatory recall authority, and require food facilities to have safety plans in place in order to mitigate hazards. The House bill would impose annual registration fees of $500 on all facilities holding, processing, or manufacturing food.
President Obama, who made food safety reform an immediate priority upon taking office, is believed to be eager to sign a comprehensive measure into law.
Attorney Fred Pritzker is a nationally-recognized food safety lawyer that has represented victims in practically every major outbreak of food poisoning in the U.S. His law firm, Pritzker Olsen, is one of the few in the nation practicing extensively in the area of foodborne illness, and it has collected millions for victims of E. coli HUS and other disease caused by pathogens in food. For more information, contact Fred Pritzker at 1-888-377-8900 (toll free). The firm has offices at Plaza VII, Suite 2950, 45 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402