Nutrition Action Healthletter
News from CSPI

Protecting the Food Supply
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, CSPI

Memo from MFJ

The tragedy of September 11 has left an indelible mark on every American.

    One lesson we learned was that dedicated terrorists know no limit, and that has led experts to consider the grim possibility of germ weapons being unleashed on our cities and food supply. That is why CSPI is supporting a narrow, but important, aspect of the war against bioterrorism. With your help, we are going to convince Congress to take steps now to detect food that has been contaminated, either accidentally or intentionally, before it has a chance to hurt anyone.

    In the weeks following the attack, Congress earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the nation’s public health system. That money will enable local and state health departments to keep track of illnesses caused by anthrax and other dangerous germs and chemicals, including ones that could contaminate food. It will also fund laboratories that are as vital to identifying food-poisoning outbreaks as they are to protecting us against bioterrorism.

    Many experts believe that adding harmful germs to food or infecting cattle with foot and mouth disease would be far easier than many other terrorist activities. They point to an episode in Oregon in 1984 when members of a cult caused hundreds of illnesses by sprinkling Salmonella bacteria on salad bars.

    Public health authorities can’t quickly respond to germ or chemical attacks—or accidental contamination—if they can’t detect them. That’s why CSPI is committed to getting Congress to fund food-safety inspections for both domestic and imported food. Today, the Food and Drug Administration checks less than one percent of imported food. It needs to examine 20 times that much. And the agency inspects our domestic food plants just once every five to ten years. That’s clearly not often enough.

    Moreover, the FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture need to have the power to recall tainted food from the marketplace. Currently, those agencies can only negotiate with companies and urge that they issue voluntary recalls. Over the long term, we need to consolidate the nation’s balkanized food-safety oversight into one strong agency.

    I hope that all our worries are needless. However, after September 11, it is critical that the government take all reasonable measures to ensure that our worst fears never come true. Please help by printing this coupon (Acrobat 181k) and sending it directly to HHS Secretary Thompson. Or, you can fill out our online coupon which will be emailed to Secretary Thompson.

    Let’s help put food safety closer to the top of his agenda. Thank you.

Mike Jacobson
Michael F. Jacobson
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest


Nutrition Action Healthletter Center for Science in the Public Interest December 2001 U.S. Edition Coupon download .pdf, 181k Subscribe Today! Customer Service