U.S. Food Safety Programs Lag Behind Other Countries, Says GAO

Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal

July 15, 2008

Today’s report from the Government Accountability Office is a welcome addition to the growing outcry for a more comprehensive food safety reform here in the U.S.

Many lessons can be learned from the food safety systems used in other countries. Instituting traceback procedures and mandatory recall authority are two things Congress could do to reform our antiquated multi-layer food safety system. The GAO report also shows that creating a unified food safety program is technologically and economically feasible, and most important, effective in helping to reduce foodborne illness.

The FDA lacks farm-to-table tracing systems, which can help accelerate the identification of an outbreak source, such as the still unknown source of the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. Canada, Japan and the EU also have mandatory animal identification systems, another system lacking in the United States.

We applaud Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro for requesting this study from GAO, as it has provided even more evidence that a comprehensive, proactive, and modern food safety system is well within reach of the U.S. We applaud the European community and the other countries studied for their commitment to prioritizing food safety, and we call on Congress and the Bush Administration to make the same commitment to food safety in this country. American consumers deserve no less.


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