The widespread Listeria outbreak traced back to cantaloupe from a Colorado farm has now claimed the lives of 23 individuals and caused 116 illnesses in 25 different states. It’s the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years, and public health advocates say it underscores the need to increase federal funding for food inspections and food safety support for state, local and federal agencies.
In January of this year, President Barack Obama signed into law the bi-partisan Food Safety Modernization Act, landmark legislation that would overhaul the nation’s food safety system and protect U.S. families from eating contaminated food. The law grants the Food and Drug Administration greater regulatory authority over the nation’s food supply. Unfortunately, the FDA has been underfunded for years and needs sufficient funding to act on regulations in the new law that could save lives by keeping our food safer.
On Wednesday, the American Public Health Association and fellow members of the Make Our Food Safe Coalition sent a letter to the Senate asking for a stronger federal commitment to support the FDA and other federal agencies to ensure safe food.
“Providing critical food safety resources to FDA and USDA is essential to help these agencies prevent such outbreaks from occurring in the future,” the groups wrote. “Prevention can in turn save billions of dollars in losses, both to individuals as well as to companies, due to deaths, injuries, product recalls and slumps in the sale of related food products.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses.