Make Our Food Safe

"Prevention Matters More Than Peanuts"

Santa Fe New Mexican | Sandra Eskin

"The people of New Mexico are justifiably proud, in the words of the state’s official website, of “everything our state has to offer — from breathtaking sunsets to fabulous local cuisine.”

But food must be more than great tasting. It also has to be safe.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, each year, 48 million Americans — 1 in 6 — are sickened by a food-borne illness, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees 80 percent of America’s food supply. Recently, it shut down a peanut manufacturing plant in Portales, because it was the apparent source of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella infections that sickened at least 42 people.

This is not about New Mexico, though; the outbreak could have started anywhere. But the FDA’s action illustrates the agency’s new authority to respond quickly and decisively under the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act — passed with bipartisan support and signed by President Barack Obama two years ago this month. This important legislation is the largest overhaul of our nation’s food safety system since the Great Depression.

Prior to passage of this act, the agency did not have the power to adequately protect the public from food-borne illnesses. The threat posed by these bacteria was well understood, but the legislation took on new urgency in 2008-2009, when tainted peanut products sickened more than 700 Americans in 46 states. Nine victims died."

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