“Play the Food-Safety Lottery: Odds are One in Four You’ll Get Sick This Year”


Statement of Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) New Foodborne Illness Estimates

Today the CDC confirmed that the number of illnesses and deaths from contaminated food in the U.S. is unacceptably high. The odds are one in four that you’ll get sick this year from contaminated foods. President Clinton and Congress should act now on proposals to fundamentally change federal food-safety programs

   Making food safer is achievable. The President’s Food Safety Initiative has been the single biggest effort in decades to improve government food-safety programs. Congress should fully fund the Initiative this year.

   Next year, the President should implement real reform, by combining food-safety functions into a single federal agency with a farm-to-table mission to reduce foodborne illnesses and deaths. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have introduced the Safe Food Act of 1999, to accomplish this.

   In today’s food-safety lottery, odds are 1 in 840 that you’ll be hospitalized and 1 in 55,000 that you’ll die from contaminated food, according to CDC’s new data. Those odds go up for elderly consumers, children, or those who are immune-compromised. The food industry should lower the risk by reducing the amount of contaminated food that reaches consumers’ plates. Consumers can improve their own odds by washing their hands frequently, using safe food-handling practices, cooking their meat thoroughly, and watching for food-recall alerts.