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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Food safety suffering from funding cuts

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has released its sixth annual report?Ready or not? Protecting the public’s health from diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism. The report contains state-by-state health preparedness scores for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. based on 10 key indicators to assess health emergency preparedness capabilities. Food safety is one of the main topics included in the report. The 2008 report finds that cuts in federal funding for state and local preparedness since 2005, coupled with the cuts states are making to their budgets in response to the economic crisis, are putting the progress toward improved public health preparedness at risk.

The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we’ve made since Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina to better prepare the nation for emergencies,” said Jeff Levi, Executive Director of TFAH. “The 25% cut in federal support to protect Americans from diseases, disasters, and bioterrorism is already hurting state response capabilities.”

Some 2008 health emergencies included the Salmonella outbreak in jalapeno and Serrano peppers and the largest beef recall in history, which occurred in Feb. The report stated that America’s food safety system has not been fundamentally modernized in more than 100 years. In addition, the report showed that 20 states and D.C. did not meet or exceed the national average rate for being able to identify the pathogens responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks.

The report concluded with suggested food safety reforms to make the U.S. food safety system preventative, instead of reactive:

1. Unified and prevention-oriented statutory mandate and organizational structures.
2. Increased resources for research, standard-setting, inspection, enforcement, and education.
3. Risk-based resource allocation.