November 12, 2009
New polls of voters in selected states - Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wyoming - show overwhelming support for measures that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authority to ensure the food Americans eat does not make them sick, according to a new poll commissioned by the Pew Health Group and conducted by a respected bipartisan team of pollsters at Hart Research (Democratic) and Public Opinion Strategies (Republican).
The polls, conducted in October, demonstrated an overwhelming majority of voters support food safety legislation that would give the FDA these new powers.
"Families across America want the government to do more to ensure their loved ones do not get sick from the food they serve over the holidays," says Sandra Eskin, director of the food safety project for the Pew Health Group. "Congress should enact stronger food safety laws before the end of the year."
The overall support for new safety measures follows high-profile outbreaks in recent years in which pathogens in peanut butter products, pistachios, peppers, spinach and other food resulted in illness in people across the country - including deaths of children and elderly citizens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of food-related illnesses occur annually in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of people hospitalized and thousands dying as a result.
"Plain and simple, foodborne illness is preventable," said Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group. "The FDA, which is responsible for the safety of over 80 percent of the foods we eat, does not have the fundamental tools or resources it needs to sufficiently protect the public from dangers in the food supply."
Release these surveys comes as the U.S. Senate is expected to consider food safety legislation that gives the FDA new oversight and enforcement powers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in July, which includes stronger inspection authorities for federal officials when investigating domestic facilities and imports.
"Voters want the government to do more to ensure that people do not get sick from the food on their dinner plates," said Erik D. Olson, director of food and consumer product safety for the Pew Health Group. "The take-away message from this is that the public gets it: our antiquated food safety laws greatly need updating so that Americans can have more confidence in the food supply."