We all generally take for granted that the food we eat is safe - or at least won't hurt us. But, you may be surprised to learn that around 76 million Americans - one in four of us - get sick each year from food. Furthermore, around 325,000 get sick enough to be hospitalized and 5,000 even end up dying from foodborne diseases. And all this sickness hurts us in the pocketbook, too. Foodborne illness costs the U.S. economy around $152 billion each year.
The real tragedy here is that experts say virtually all foodborne illnesses could be prevented. Despite major advances in scientific knowledge, huge changes in how food is grown and processed, and seismic shifts in what we eat, the food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in 100 years. Yes, you read that right, we're a whole century behind the times. This is back when people were driving Model T's, and no one had to be concerned about the quality of fish in their sushi or the freshness of the veggies on their delivery pizza. Times have changed, and it's time for food safety to get with the times.
As we approach the food feast holiday, there is no time like the present for policymakers to do their part and bring food safety into the 21st century. The Senate is about to vote on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. This bill would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority it needs to help prevent foodborne illnesses - for the first time ever.
The bill would focus on preventing illnesses, by ensuring safety through the entire food production process. Under this legislation, food processors would be required to identify potential hazards in their production processes and put in place programs to eliminate those hazards. The bill would also require the FDA to inspect all food facilities more frequently and would allow them to recall contaminated food.
The bill has widespread support from the food industry, consumer groups, and public health organizations - and even crosses the political divides with strong bi-partisan support. It is way past time to pass FDA food safety legislation - the American public shouldn't have to stomach preventable foodborne diseases any longer.
While we have come a long way, we are dangerously close to Congress adjourning for the year - making it paramount that the Act be moved on.
As thoughts shift to Thanksgiving and family, think of all the food that will be consumed and your loved ones. Wouldn't you do anything you could to prevent harm? Modernizing food safety will save countless dollars and lives - that's something we can all be thankful for.
Before you sit down to your feast, tell Congress that it's time to seriously talk turkey about food safety.