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America's Food Safety System on Verge of Breakdown, Warns Report

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: food safety, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) The United States' food safety system is in crisis, with a confusing patchwork of regulations, authority and a dire lack of funding, according to a report released by the Trust for America's Health.

"One in four Americans is sickened by food-borne illnesses each year," said Jeffrey Levi, the organization's executive director. "That's 76 million people. That number is far too high, and major gaps in our nation's food safety are to blame."

One of the biggest problems, according to the report, is that too many federal agencies are involved in food safety, and that the rules regulating oversight authority are confusing. For example, frozen pizza is normally regulated by the FDA, but frozen pizzas that contain meat must instead by regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"The major problem with the current food system is that no one person is in charge," Levi said. "Instead, there are a total of 15 federal agencies that play a role in administering some 30 laws related to food safety."

The current system is also too focused on responding to health outbreaks after they happen, instead of working to prevent them, the trust said. The major tool used by the government to keep food safe is old-fashioned inspections of cow, pig and fowl carcasses, which could easily be replaced by cheaper, more efficient methods. The U.S. food safety system, the report notes, has not been updated in more than 100 years.

Making the problem worse is a lack of funding for food safety inspections at the FDA, which receives only half of all federal food safety funding. Yet foods regulated by that agency are the source of 85 percent of the country's food-related illness outbreaks.

The FDA has reduced its food inspection staff by 600 and cut 20 percent of its science staff in the last three years due to funding shortages.

Sources for this story include: www.washingtonpost.com.

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