'Poisoned' documentary shines a light on opportunities for much-needed food safety reforms

Caution tape

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Statement by Sarah Sorscher, Director of Regulatory Affairs, CSPI

Tomorrow, Netflix will release a powerful documentary, “Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food,” which shines a harsh light on the American food system, often touted as the “safest food in the world.”  

The truth is, our food is nowhere near as safe as it should be. Regulators and the food industry have not done enough to mitigate deadly pathogens like STEC E. coli and Salmonella, and consumers remain ill-prepared to manage food poisoning risks in our kitchens. We continue to be sickened and die at unacceptably high rates due to contaminated foods as a result.  

But the documentary also highlights the moments when outrage has translated into effective change, such as when USDA moved to ban pathogenic E. coli from ground beef in the 1990s, resulting in dramatic declines in illnesses from beef. 

Here is another truth: We have the opportunity now for policy action. The USDA has proposed a framework to ban dangerous forms of Salmonella contamination in raw poultry, following the same model used in ground beef. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has sponsored a bill, the Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act, that would allow federal investigators to investigate foodborne outbreaks that emerge from large animal farms.  

Policymakers should support these key changes, and consumers should take action now to tell their representatives in Congress to prioritize food safety reforms, and tell USDA to move forward with its plans to ban Salmonella from raw poultry. 

We deserve safe food, and together we have the power to make it a reality, by creating a system where consumers can truly have confidence in our food.

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