Kentucky voters overwhelmingly support new authorities the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has over food safety, and 72 percent say it is worth it to pay one-to-three percent more for their food to ensure the government can fund these activities, according to a Pew-commissioned poll by the bipartisan team of Hart Research and American Viewpoint.
Voters, however, do not think they are the only ones who should be supporting this increased oversight. A total 69 percent favor food companies paying an average of $1,000 annually per facility to help cover the cost of the new federal food safety responsibilities.
High-profile outbreaks of contaminated eggs, peanut products, spinach and other foods in recent years have sickened many people across the country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million food-related illnesses occur annually in the United States, with 128,000 people hospitalized and 3,000 dying as a result.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January, which strengthens the oversight authorities of the FDA. The legislation improves safety standards for food facilities and fresh produce, strengthens inspection requirements, boosts powers to help limit the dangers of food imports and provides the FDA with the power to issue a mandatory recall of contaminated food, among other authorities. These new authorities are crucial because the FDA is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the nation's food supply.
Overall, 85 percent of Kentucky voters believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, and 74 percent of voters feel the FDA plays an "essential" or "very important' role in helping to protect Americans' health and safety.
"For too long the FDA has not had adequate resources or power to protect Americans from dangers in the food supply," says Erik Olson, who directs food programs for the Pew Health Group. "This poll reflects a strong belief among most Kentucky voters that they want to be sure that FDA is protecting the safety of the food they put on their family's dinner table."
Upon learning that the FDA has only been able to inspect less than one percent of shipments of food imports before coming into the U.S, 73 percent indicated that they were more likely to support additional funding for food safety. Further, 72 percent said they were more likely to support the additional funding after learning that, in the past, the FDA was only able to inspect food processing facilities on average once every ten years.
Release of the survey comes as Congress is expected to consider legislation that will support the federal government for the next fiscal year.
The survey, conducted between April 28 and May 5, 2011, polled 519 likely voters in Kentucky on landline and mobile phones. The survey has a +/- 4.3 percent margin of error.