News Release

New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Food Recalls Rack Up $227 Million in Economic Costs in 2011 and 2012
For Immediate Release

Trenton, October 29 – Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by New Jersey PIRG.  Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs.  Here in New Jersey, in the last 21 months 121 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls; the cost to New Jersey's economy was over $5.1 million. 

“Every year we see hundreds of food products recalled because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. 2012 has already seen nearly twice as many illnesses due to recalls as 2011, with high-profile recalls of cantaloupes and hundreds of thousands of jars of peanut butter,” said Peter Skopec, Advocate at New Jersey PIRG.  “More needs to be done to identify the contaminants that are making us sick and to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food.”

The report, “Total Food Recall: Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives at Risk,” analyzed nationwide recall information issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from January 2011 to September 2012.  During that period, there were:

  • 1,753 foodborne Illnesses directly linked to recalls of food products from known pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella; 
  • 37 deaths directly linked to recalls of food products; and
  • $227 million in economic and health related costs linked to recalls of food products.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, with strong support from New Jersey PIRG, consumer groups and public health groups.  The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers.   However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and our foods remain unsafe.

“We need a food safety system that is fully funded and fully staffed so it can stop unsafe food from reaching our dinner tables,” Skopec. “We must move away from the current reactive approach, where recalls happen after dangerous products have already made it into families’ kitchens, and focus on prevention.  The Food Safety Modernization Act should be fully implemented and the Administration should not waste any more time in strengthening our food safety systems.” 

The report is available at http://www.njpirg.org/reports/njp/total-food-recall.

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