House Republicans have gone to great lengths to block implementation of a new food safety law, while also trying to cut the budgets of agencies that oversee food safety. But new data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows just how foolhardy those moves are, as rates of foodborne illnesses are rising:
The most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the rates of infections linked to four out of five key pathogens it tracks – salmonella, vibrio, campylobacter and listeria – remained relatively steady or increased from 2007 through 2011. The exception is a strain of E. coli, which has been tied to fewer illnesses over the same time period.
Foodborne illnesses sicken 48 million and kill roughly 3,000 Americans each year, and recently, a salmonella outbreak forced the recall of 30,000 pounds of Cargill-produced ground beef. Despite these numbers, the GOP budget made drastic cuts to the Food and Drug Administration in an attempt to prevent the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a law signed by President Obama last year that marked the first significant update to food safety law in a generation. The House farm bill, meanwhile, contains an amendment proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) that would prevent states from regulating agricultural products.
Republicans, however, aren’t necessarily alone in their fight. Obama also sought cuts to the Food Safety Inspection Service in his budget plan, and his administration has thus far failed to meet required deadlines to implement new regulations. “Everyone was hoping that this new food safety law would be in place and we’d start seeing improvements by now,” Erik Olson, a director at the Pew Health Group, told the Washington Post. “What these CDC numbers show is that unless new protections are put into place, millions of Americans are going to continue to get sick from contaminated food.”