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According to a new report prepared by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the number of Americans suffering foodborne illness or death from consumption of unsafe food has increased 44% in the last two years, despite massive reform of food safety laws.

Every year, foodborne illness affects approximately 48 million people in this country. This year, for example, consumers have faced recalls of tainted cantaloupe, mangoes, peanut butter, and beef.

Two years ago, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama. This legislation was designed to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater power to hold food suppliers responsible for outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.  Although some parts of the new law have taken effect, most of the law’s regulatory framework remains in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with no timetable for implementation.

OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack was questioned about this delay, to which she responded: “We have taken key steps, including putting out a food safety rule cracking down on salmonella in eggs and expanding E. coli testing for beef. We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right. “

The research group report criticized the FDA’s inspection of imported foreign foods.  Almost 15 percent of the food consumed in the United States is imported. Data from the FDA reveals that 66 percent of fruits and vegetables come from foreign suppliers. However, in 2008, the FDA only inspected 153 of approximately 189,000 foreign food facilities.

According to the report, foodborne illness outbreaks are getting worse. “The incident of salmonella was three times the 2010 national health objective target, which is especially alarming, as salmonella causes the majority of hospitalizations and deaths from foodborne disease.”

The Public Interest Research Group’s report concludes by calling for the complete implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

For more information, contact the Ohio foodborne illness attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List

Source: CNN, “Report: Unsafe food putting lives at risk,” Todd Sperry, October 24, 2012.