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Is American Food Safe For Consumers?

  • Broadcast in Current Events
Getting It Right With Dr Boles

Getting It Right With Dr Boles


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Foodborne illnesses kill roughly 5,000 people every year and sicken another 300,000 severely enough to require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the laws that shape the government's powers to respond to food threats date back to the early 1900s, spurring some to ask whether new regulations or a new agency focused exclusively on food safety is needed. Many people are surprised to learn that FDA cannot force product recalls or shut down facilities with violations. Graphic reports of unsanitary conditions at two egg production facilities involved in a nationwide salmonella outbreak were frightening. Salmonella enteritidis, can originate inside of an egg since the ovaries of a hen can be contaminated by the bacteria, passing the contaminant along to the whites and yoke of an egg as well as outside the shell. The birds themselves aren't sick and produce eggs that look clean. Rodents in food packaging and distribution facilities are the most common source of salmonella contamination.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed early in April, 2016 to limit inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal, saying that this common starter food is a leading source of exposure to the toxin. Infants are particularly vulnerable to arsenic in rice because, relative to body weight, they eat about three times more rice than adults. It is known that arsenic exposure is related not only to diminished intellectual function early in life, but also to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirth.

A bill to update the nation's antiquated food safety regulatory powers has been passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate consideration. There is a “disconnect” between the different “watch-dog agencies” as illustrated by the lack of communication among officials who visited the egg facilities.