E. coli-contaminated sprouts from Germany are responsible for 48 recent deaths and thousands of serious illnesses worldwide, and last summer about a half billion eggs were recalled because of Salmonella that made nearly 2,000 Americans sick. These outbreaks show we need to safeguard the American food supply by improving oversight within the U.S., as well as outside our borders.
Earlier in 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act to improve food safety and protect the American people from foodborne illness. However, without enough funding the public will never see the safeguards Congress intended. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to slash the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety budgets for next year. These cuts put all Americans at risk, but children, seniors, pregnant women or other individuals with compromised immune systems will carry the greatest risk.
The U.S. Senate will consider funding levels for the FDA and USDA soon. Tell your Senators to help restore the FDA’s food safety funds and protect Americans from hazards in their food.
In addition to the recent outbreak in Germany, contaminated eggs, peanut products, spinach and other foods have sickened many people across the country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million food-related illnesses occur annually in the United States, with 128,000 people hospitalized and 3,000 dying as a result.
We know Congress has tough choices to make in this budget crisis, but food safety should not be one of the cuts. The U.S. Senate has always championed the funding of vital government functions, like improved food safety regulations, and today we need stronger protections for both our domestic and imported foods. Recent governmental reports show that up to 15 percent of the food consumed in the U.S. is imported, but under the current level of funding only about 1-2% of the food entering our country is inspected. The new law helps address this situation by providing enhanced oversight for food imports. However, to implement the law, it will require more funding, not deeper cuts. The American public deserves and expects strong oversight of its food. Unfortunately, at current funding levels, we cannot meet this essential goal.
As the appropriations process begins in the Senate, we ask you not only to consider budgetary constraints, but also the health and wellbeing of all Americans. In his FY2012 budget proposal, the President has asked for slight increases in food safety resources for the FDA and USDA. Please fully fund this request and allow these food safety agencies to do their job in protecting our food.