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New York Times: The 76 Million Food Victims

A recent editorial in the New York Times highlighted an issue that the Levin & Perconti product liability attorneys have frequently blogged about – food safety. It seems as though in recent years, we have had constant reminders of weaknesses in our nation’s food safety system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), 76 million cases of food-related illnesses are reported every year, with over 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 wrongful deaths.

Last year’s salmonella outbreak exposed the insufficiencies of our current food regulation system. The salmonella outbreak sickened 1,400 people and sent 286 to the hospital. It took the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) two months to finally trace the source of the salmonella outbreak. At first, tomatoes were suspected, but as the sickness spread, investigators traced the problem to spicy Mexican peppers. The delays in figuring out the root of the food safety problem not only put consumers at food poisoning risk, but it also devastated economic prospects for the season for much of the tomato industry.

A Senate Bill can possibly provide an important first step to revamping the food safety program by setting up pilot programs to improve the FDA’s ability to track toxins quickly to any source. The bill would provide new powers for the FDA, which has been understaffed, underfunded, and given too little authority in recent years to prevent food-borne illnesses. The bill would finally give the agency the power to order a mandatory product recall of a food product if there was a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or wrongful death.

To read more about the plaguing problem of food poisoning.