Screen Shot 2012-04-09 at 2.56.08 PM.pngFood poisoning is not a new concern. The problem is, it’s not an old one either.  Consumers, Government and Industry have been working to eradicate foodborne illness in the United States since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle revealed rampant contamination in the nation’s food supply and thrust food safety onto the national scene. And yet, pathogens continue to crop up in our food supply, sickening an estimated 48 million people per year, according to recently updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And these bugs don’t just land people on the toilet for a few days. Of those sickened, 128,000 are hospitalized each year and 3,000 don’t survive.

One example of a life taken by foodborne illness was 7-year-old Abigail Fenstermaker, who died in May of 2009 of complications from an E. coli infection picked up from her grandfather when he ate contaminated ground beef sold by Valley Meats. Abby suffered kidney failure due to her E. coli infection and died of a stroke a week later. Her grandfather died of complications from his illness the following year.

E. coli Victim: Abby Fenstermaker from Marlerclark on Vimeo.

And just last year 36 people died as a result of eating Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe.

Screen Shot 2012-04-09 at 2.56.22 PM.pngNot only are foodborne illnesses tragic; they are costly too. Illnesses from food poisoning pose a $77.7 billion economic burden in the United States annually.  (See, Economic Burden from Health Losses Due to Foodborne Illness in the United States, Author: Scharff, Robert L., Source: Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 1, January 2012, pp. 123-131(9)).  That’s about the equivalent of what government spends on national intelligence each year. While agencies such as the CIA and FBI work to protect people from foreign and domestic threats, preventable foodborne diseases leak the same amount spent on these programs from the economy.

Please join us in pushing for a safer food supply so that the next time CDC updates its foodborne illness statistics, there will be fewer to report.

What you can do:

A.     Educate yourself on the topic:

B.     Write or call your legislators to tell them why food safety deserves adequate funding and tight regulations, including increased testing and adherence to sanitation guidelines.

C.     Wear a t-shirt that spreads the message about the impact of food poisoning in the United States.  They will be on sale soon at

  • Cracking good article.

    It’s the kind of rallying cry that appeals to activists these days.

    What always strikes me is how in the USA, there are “apparently” many more outbreaks, and the source is usually traced. The figures are horrifying.

    Britain has “apparently” few outbreaks and the source is rarely traced.

    I put inverted commas about “apparently” because I do not believe there is any significant difference in the reality.

    Look at Ireland this morning too. The main hospitals north and south of the border riddled with norovirus, a relatively new phenomenon, and nobody ever finds out where it comes from in Britain or Ireland, being content to say “not us” and banning visitors from seeing sick relatives. It really is quite disgraceful.

    So, I like the idea of occupying food safety, it should fall on fertile ground on this side of the Atlantic too.

  • Kathleen Buchanan

    Bill, I salute your continued and tireless effort to inform the public and effect changes in food safety. I wish everyone could become as informed as I am becoming through your blog. It shouldn’t take losing a loved one to have this information thrust before us! Losing my mother brought this to my attention but alll Americans deserve to be informed of the peril lurking in our food supply.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Excellent points! All of us are the 48 million and I believe that number to be under-reported!

  • Minkpuppy

    The T-shirts are a great idea! I will be placing an order soon. They are a great tool for getting a dialogue going about how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go when it comes to preventing foodborne illnesses.