Washington, DC - The vast majority of Kentucky voters - 87 percent - support Congress passing legislation that would improve the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) oversight of the nation's food supply, according to a new bipartisan poll commissioned by the Pew Health Group and conducted by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies.
Support for stronger food protections is high regardless of voters' gender, income level or political affiliation. The statewide survey of 501 registered voters, conducted from June 22-23, 2010, has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of food-safety legislation in July 2009 and the U.S. Senate is expected to soon consider its own bill.
Of Kentucky voters polled, 43 percent would be more favorable toward their member of Congress if they voted for food-safety legislation. By comparison, 6 percent would be less favorable toward their member if they voted for the bill.
Voters in Kentucky also back the food-safety legislation even if it will, in turn, cost them more money. A total of 72 percent of those who participated in the survey support new FDA authorities if the price of their food increases 3 percent, a high estimate for what the new legislation could cost consumers.
"Kentucky voters have made it clear that the safety of their food is a major concern," said Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group. "The FDA is responsible for the safety of about 80 percent of the nation's food supply and the agency needs more authority to properly protect Americans."
Those surveyed are also very concerned about the safety of imported food. More than half of polled voters - 59 percent - believe the federal government is "doing too little" when it comes to ensuring that food produced in other countries is safe from contamination. Currently the FDA is equipped to inspect only about 1 percent of the imported products it regulates, according to agency officials.
"Suppliers bring food into the United States from all over world, and the FDA needs new tools to make sure these imports are safe," said Erik D. Olson, director of the food portfolio for the Pew Health Group. "Making sure the food that comes into our country is safe is a key improvement that needs to be made at the FDA - and it is one of many that the nation will see with the passage of historic food-safety legislation."
The findings in the survey follow high-profile outbreaks in recent years in which pathogens in peanut butter products, pistachios, peppers, spinach, lettuce and other food resulted in illness in people across the country - including deaths of children and older citizens. According to the U.S. 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.