Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
The FDA will soon adopt regulations that should help millions of Americans avoid being poisoned from tainted food.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Every day, 350 Americans on average are admitted to the hospital, sickened from something they ate. Eight will die. And in millions of homes across the country, others are hugging the porcelain.
Foodborne diseases sicken 48 million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, making it a significant public health burden that is largely preventable. Yet the government has been mostly powerless to do much about it.
That is about to change. Congress authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate food safety from farm to grocer aisle and restaurant table in late 2010. At the time, widespread and deadly outbreaks involving spinach, rotten eggs and poisoned peanut butter were sickening people while too many days were wasted tracking down the source and distribution of the tainted food. Americans, too, were shocked to learn that the government did not have the power to actually recall the food. Or to require proof that imports meet standards. The FDA is now empowered to do this, but it takes time to write the regulations.
Under the proposed rules, if lettuce served on a fast-food burger in Roanoke sickens diners, the FDA can quickly trace its origins and follow the food chain to determine where else the tainted vegetable was sent.
Even better, before the lettuce is slapped on the bun, diners will have more assurance that safer practices were used to grow it. The FDA rules will require frequent inspection of irrigation systems, for example, to ensure they are not spraying fecal matter. But these rules will apply only to foods that are typically eaten raw, such as summer squash. Foods that are usually cooked, such as winter squash, escape the bureaucracy under the theory that heat destroys foodborne pathogens. That, though, may not always be so, leading some consumer advocates to call on the FDA to cover all food.
Others object to regulating produce like Virginia’s apple crop because the rules will add much to growers’ costs without lessening the risk of foodborne illnesses, since poisoned apples are found rarely outside of fairy tales.
Also, exceptions were carved out by Congress for small producers and those who sell mostly to local markets. Consumers buying locally cultivated produce won’t be assured the grower is following safe practices, but they could have more opportunities to ask. And should a product be tainted, the outbreak would be limited.
The FDA will continue taking comments on the rules until May 16. Since it is creating a system from scratch, undoubtedly, it will need to tweak the mix of regulations to find the best way to make sure Americans are no longer fed a steady diet of pathogens.
Weather JournalBreather before next wintry system