A new report says that “systemic failures” in the U.S. food safety system have led to a sharp increase in recalls of contaminated foods since 2013.
How Safe is Our Food?, from U.S. Public Interest Research Groups’ (PIRG) Education Fund, found that many types of food recalls have increased since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Some of that increase may be due to better science and more thorough investigations under FSMA, but not all.
“The food we nourish our bodies with shouldn’t pose a serious health risk. But systemic failures mean we’re often rolling the dice when we go grocery shopping or eat out,” said Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog. “We can prevent serious health risks by using common sense protections from farm to fork.”
Key findings from this year’s report include:
- An 83 percent increase in meat and poultry recalls that can cause serious health problems: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class 1 recalls “involve a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.” This includes recalls of beef for E. coli, poultry for Salmonella, and others.
- Food recalls overall increased by 10 percent between 2013-2018: From crackers to children’s cereal to lettuce to meat, we’ve seen the total number of food recalls increase over the last six years.
- Archaic laws allow meat producers to sell contaminated products: It is currently legal to sell meat that tests positive for dangerous strains of Salmonella. A case study of the recent recall of 12 million pounds of beef sold by JBS could likely have been prevented if it this policy was changed.
- Bacteria-contaminated water used on vegetables and produce: A case study helps demonstrate how irrigation water polluted by fecal matter from a nearby cattle feedlot likely contaminated romaine lettuce with E. coli in the spring of 2018.
“These recalls are a warning to everyone that something is rotten in our fields and slaughterhouses. Government agencies need to make sure that the food that reaches people’s mouths won’t make them sick,” finished Viveth Karthikeyan, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Associate.
Food safety guidelines from Stop Foodborne Illness
Stop Foodborne Illness, a national nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens, offers food safetyy tips at: www.Stopfoodborneillness.org/awareness/. If you think you have been sickened from food , contact your local health professional. You may subscribe to receive Stop Foodborne Illness e-Alerts and eNews here: www.Stopfoodborneillness.org/take-action/sign-up-for-e-alerts/.