High-Risk Consumers First Victims of Florida Budget Cuts
Florida Ends Food Safety Inspections in Day Cares, Hospitals, and Nursing Homes
WASHINGTON—State budget cuts have led to yet another fatality—the death of food safety inspections at facilities serving the state’s most vulnerable populations. A sweeping budget bill signed by Governor Charlie Crist last month eliminates food safety inspections at hospitals, day cares, and nursing homes—facilities feeding those people who are already most at-risk fromfoodborne illness. Three state agencies are responsible for food inspections, but House Bill 5311 means that none of these agencies will have the authority or the mandate to inspect these facilities from now on. Foodborne illnesses linked to these facilities have sickened hundreds of Florida consumers in at least 15 separate outbreaks since 1995.
“Florida politicians were clearly not thinking about their young children or their aging parents when they passed this bill,” says Sarah Klein, a staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “These consumers—and anyone who is immuno-compromised—are already at greater risk of being hospitalized from foodborne illness. Ending food safety inspections in the kitchens that feed those populations is like taking seatbelts out of their cars and hoping no one has an accident.”
News of the change to Florida’s inspection policy comes on the heels of a recommendation by the Institute of Medicine, urging the Food & Drug Administration to delegate more food facility inspections to the states. Consumer groups have criticized the recommendation, in part because state health departments are already understaffed and underfunded. Florida’s action provides more evidence that at least some states are unequipped to accept any additional inspection duties.
“Florida consumers deserve more from their legislature than budget cuts to critical public health services,” says Klein. “A budget savings on the front end, by eliminating inspections, can lead to huge costs later—when people get sick from foodborne illness. And if it’s your child, or parent, or sick loved one…you can bet those savings weren’t worth it.” Inspections at restaurants and prisons will continue.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).