From Gardiner Harris of The New York Times
: After decades of steady progress, the safety of the nation's food supply has not improved over the past three years, the government reported [April 9]. And, it said, in the case of salmonella, the dangerous bacteria recently found in peanuts and pistachios, infections may be creeping upward.
The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demonstrates that the nation's food safety system, created when most foods were grown, prepared and consumed locally, needs a thorough overhaul to regulate an increasingly global food industry, top government health officials said Thursday.
“The system needs to be modernized to address the
challenges and changes of the globalization of the food supply and
rapid distribution chains,” said Dr. David Acheson, associate
commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. “F.D.A. needs to do more inspections.”
Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the agency’s food center, agreed. “As
supply chains get longer and longer,” Dr. Sundlof said, “there’s more
opportunity to introduce contaminants that have a public health effect.”
report is likely to deepen tensions between the F.D.A. and the
Department of Agriculture, which have long been rivals in overseeing
food safety. An Agriculture Department campaign begun in 2006 to reduce
salmonella contamination of meat and poultry has been successful, the
report noted. But Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the C.D.C.’s
division of foodborne diseases, suggested that whatever progress the
department had made in improving overall food safety might have been
lost by the F.D.A.
“Produce is a more important contributor to
the overall problem than it used to be,” said Dr. Tauxe, referring to
spinach and other foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
disease control centers’ report said that in 2008, 16 of every 100,000
people in the United States had laboratory-confirmed cases of
salmonella infections. That translates into about 48,000 serious
illnesses, since individual stool samples are generally sent to
laboratories only when someone is suffering a severe bout. In 2005, the
figure was 14 people per 100,000, or about 42,000 cases of
laboratory-confirmed salmonella infections.
The apparent increase
in salmonella is not statistically significant and could be a
statistical fluke, according to the disease control centers. Indeed,
across a range of a variety of foodborne illnesses, there has been no
statistically significant change over the past three years in the share
of the nation’s population that has been severely sickened by food.
76 million people in the United States suffer foodborne illnesses each
year, 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die, according to C.D.C.
estimates. Children younger than 4 are sickened by food more than those
in any other age group, but adults over age 50 suffer more
hospitalizations and death as a result of food-related infections.
The New York Times