[CHICAGO, IL] – The ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect the safety of the nation’s food supply will dramatically improve now that Congress has passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. Durbin was joined at a news conference—held the same day the President is expected to sign the bill into law—by Nancy Donley, Board President of Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) and mother of Alex, who died in 1993 at age six after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. Coli. Donley’s letter to then-Congressman Durbin shortly after her son’s death inspired him to write legislation to improve food safety standards and protect other families from similar tragedies.
Durbin’s legislation, which enjoyed bipartisan support, will give the FDA new authorities, tools, and resources to comprehensively reform the nation’s food safety systems. The bill—the most comprehensive food safety reform in 70 years—is expected to be signed into law by the President later today.
“We’ve seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with salmonella, spinach laced with e-coli and chili loaded with botulism,” Durbin said. “These are not isolated incidents. They are the result of an outdated, under-funded and overwhelmed food safety system. My bill will improve the FDA’s ability to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and ensure that FDA responds quickly and effectively when outbreaks do occur.
“Today, FDA is working within the constraints of outdated laws, inadequate staff, and not enough funding,” Durbin said. “The agency has been set up to react to outbreaks of contamination. My legislation will take the FDA to a new level by empowering the agency to prevent outbreaks. The bill gives FDA the resources and authority to quickly trace food borne illnesses back to their source. With those changes, we’ll be able to prevent millions of food-borne illnesses and thousands of deaths each year.”
The legislation addresses head-on some of the issues surrounding the recent product recalls by increasing the frequency of inspections at all food facilities; giving the FDA expanded access to records and testing results, and allowing the FDA to recall dangerous food products in the event a company fails to recall a product at the FDA’s request. Food safety experts note that had any of these provisions been in place, the scope of last year’s Salmonella outbreak could have been drastically reduced and the FDA’s response time, dramatically improved.
Each year, one out of every six Americans (48 million people) get sick due to preventable food-borne illnesses. Approximately 128,000 of those individuals are hospitalized and 3,000 die.