Hoping to initiate some momentum, 28 of the approximately 700 surviving victims from last year’s contaminated peanut products have sent a letter to the Senate stressing the need to go over its version of the food safety reform bill passed by the House last summer.
Sparked in part as a response to developing reports that E. coli bacteria is being discovered in Nestle’s Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, the letter urges the Senate to uphold the promises lawmakers made a year ago. Nestle recalled 3.6 million packages of its ready to bake cookie dough after 76 people fell ill in 31 states last summer. Recently Nestle announced it will begin using heat-treated flour in the production of its dough in order to kill bacteria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) report that the number of Americans who get sick from food-related illness every year teeters on 76 million, with 70,000 falling ill from E. coli. More than 5,000 Americans die each year from food-borne related illness, with 325,000 Americans going to the hospital. In addition, the number of food-related illnesses that go unreported is thought to be significant, as many people don’t realize their sicknesses were the results of contaminated food. Older Americans, in particular, are more susceptible to death from contaminated foods.
Although the Senate version of the bill was passed unanimously out of committee, a floor vote is still to be had. If the Senate version passes, "the two bills will be combined into one and sent to President Obama, who has already indicated his support for stronger food safety regulations," reports the AARP Bulletin Today.
In preparation for the passing of the new legislature, the FDA has created and filled a new position within its organization: deputy commissioner for foods. The position will implement the new law, which will give the FDA "sweeping new powers over farmers, manufacturers and importers."At present, the FDA can only recommend recalls. If the new law is passed, the FDA will be able to make recalls.
Support for the FDA’s new authorities have come from both the industry and consumers. Contaminated food can cost companies billions, and can add up to $6 billion to the U.S. health care bill, according to the National Institutes of health.