November 12, 2009
Raleigh, NC - An overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters - 89 percent - support food safety legislation 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 Hart Research 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 October 8-10, 2009, has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent.
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.
The survey shows that a majority of North Carolina voters polled (53 percent) say that bacterial contamination of food worries them, and about half (51 percent) of voters say what they have seen and heard in the last year has made them less confident in the safety of food sold in the United States.
"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."
A total of 86 percent of North Carolina voters interviewed believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, and 62 percent believe the federal government is doing too little to ensure that imported food is safe from contamination. The FDA is equipped to inspect about one percent of the imported products it regulates, according to agency officials.
Release of the survey 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.
"North Carolina 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."