I spoke to Mina Kimes about her article, “Egg recall is a golden opportunity to whip food safety into shape,” that appeared in Fortune and CNN this morning about my view of the need to give the CDC more resources to catch foodborne or bioterrorism outbreak sooner. I had blogged about how needed the new food safety legislation is to allow for greater coordination between local, state and federal health authorities – “Foodborne Illness Surveillance in the time of HB 2749 and SB 510” – a few days ago. Here were my thoughts on why the CDC needs the resources:
The lag between problem and recall: “months”
The section of the bill that calls for increased surveillance may be the most pertinent to the current salmonella outbreak. Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in taking on food recall cases (including the current egg outbreak), thinks that particular proposal, which calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot project to improve tracking methods and enhance surveillance systems, could have helped regulators catch the outbreak much earlier.
“There’s no question in my mind that, if there was more communication and coordination going on between health departments, this thing would have been figured out months ago,” says Marler.
Though the salmonella outbreak began in May, the first egg recall didn’t occur until mid-August. Such delays are common, says Marler. “If you look back historically at every major food-borne illness outbreak, by the time the CDC or state or local health departments are announcing an outbreak that’s nationwide in scope, the outbreak is usually over,” he says.
So, Senate, pass S. 510 and lets give our local, state and federal public health officials the tools they need to keep us healthy.