For Immediate Release: March 31, 2009
Trust for America's Health on the Recall of Certain Pistachios and the U.S. Food Safety System
Washington, D.C. - The following is a statement from Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of Trust for America's Health (TFAH):
"Today's recall of pistachios is the latest reminder of how vulnerable our food safety system is. Our current food safety system is not adequately set up to respond to many modern threats to our food, including Salmonella. Our food safety system is out-of-date, under-resourced, and understaffed. It is encouraging that this response was so quick, but we need to move to a system that focuses on prevention through the entire food production process.
It is also encouraging that Kraft Foods alerted the FDA to the results of its internal food testing and was able to identify the Setton Pistachio company of Terra Bella, California as the source of the contaminated pistachios. However, it should be noted that notification of this sort is not required under current food safety laws, and, as we saw in the case of the Peanut Corporation of America, often companies conceal these results from state and federal food safety officials."
TFAH released a report last week, Keeping America's Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which called for:
- Increasing and aligning resources with the highest-risk threats;
- Modernizing the mandate and legal authority of the HHS Secretary to prevent illness, which would include enforcing the duty of food companies to implement modern preventive controls and meet government-established food safety performance standards;
- Immediately establishing a Deputy Commissioner at FDA with line authority over all food safety programs, including the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the food functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs, as an interim step toward creating a Food Safety Administration; and
- Working through Congress toward the creation of a Food Safety Administration within HHS, strategically aligning and elevating the food safety functions currently housed at FDA and better coordinating regulation policies and practices with the surveillance and detection of outbreak functions at CDC and with food safety agencies at the state and local level.
Approximately 76 million Americans -- one in four -- are sickened by foodborne disease each year. Of these, an estimated 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die. Foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. $44 billion annually.
The full report is available on TFAH's Web site at www.healthyamericans.org.
Trust for America's Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.