Consumer groups demand single food-safety agency
April 3, 1997
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST
In this story:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The recent hepatitis scare in frozen
strawberries has prompted renewed calls from consumer groups
for the creation of a single federal food-safety agency.
Consumer advocates wrote President Clinton Wednesday, saying
the latest outbreak follows a year of increased food scares
and signifies the need for a single agency to monitor food
"Last year, there was a bumper crop of food-borne illnesses
from FDA-regulated foods," said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the
Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the groups
Among recent food scares in the U.S., according to DeWaal:
- More than 1,000 people fell ill from eating parasite-
tainted Guatemalan raspberries.
- At least 100 people received E.coli poisoning from
- One child died and dozens of others fell ill from
drinking E.coli-tainted apple juice.
- Hundreds of people became sick after eating bad
Although the U.S. food supply is considered the safest in
the world, an estimated 9,000 Americans die every year from
food poisoning. Between 9 million and 33 million become sick
every year from some form of food poisoning, records show.
Several agencies responsible
The current food-safety system spreads responsibility among
numerous agencies, including the United States Department of
Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the
Environmental Protection Agency. For example, the USDA
regulates meat; the FDA regulates most other food.
DeWaal and others contend the system is too inefficient, and
that years of underfunding have left the FDA with a food
safety program that is little more than a recall agency for
In January, Clinton asked Congress for a $43 million food
budget increase to help the agencies better monitor potential
food hazards, among other things.
But the consumer groups say piecemeal reforms aren't enough.
Nancy Donley of Safe Tables Our Priority, whose 6-year-old
son died after eating an E.coli-contaminated hamburger, said
she "can't help but wonder if my only child would be alive"
if a single agency had existed for food regulation.
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FDA: Current system works
Vicki Peal, whose father died after eating a bad oyster, said
she fears "the consequences of having (the FDA) oversee new
The FDA, meanwhile, insists that the various federal food
agencies combined are up to the job.
"It's best to see this as sort of an integrated package of
many people from many perspectives with different skills
trying to assure the public health," said Dr. Michael
Friedman, acting commissioner of the FDA.
Correspondent Eugenia Halsey contributed to this report.
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