Big Recalls Built Momentum for Food Safety Overhaul

The Senate’s passage of a sweeping food safety bill brings the U.S. a step closer to stronger protections for its food supply. But as reported by the Christian Science Monitor, it took numerous food safety scandals, illnesses and deaths from salmonella and E. coli to get to this point.

The safety overhaul is hardly a done deal. Lawmakers have little time to harmonize differences between the Senate bill and the version passed earlier by the House. If they fail to reconcile the measures before they adjourn, a new Congress would have to start from scratch in January. Moreover, according to Roll Call, a procedural error by Senate Democrats could doom the measure.

Nonetheless, the Senate passage culminates years of efforts by consumer advocates and safety experts. The Monitor cites five major recalls that galvanized public support:

1) Egg recall, August 2010

An estimated 550 million eggs, sold under a handful of different brand names in seven different states, were recalled after a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,800 people. Ironically, one of the two offending producers, Wright County Egg, was again authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to ship shell eggs to market the same day that the Senate passed the bill.

2) Peanut butter recall, December 2009

The FDA ordered the recall of peanut butter produced at a ConAgra plant in Sylvester, Ga., after some 370 people fell ill. The popular Peter Pan brand was among those recalled.

3) Spinach recall, August 2007

California producer Metz Fresh LLC recalled its fresh bag spinach after positive tests for salmonella. It was the third major spinach recall since 2005.

4) Lettuce recall, October 2006

California producers Nunes Company, Inc., and Fresh Express both voluntarily recalled lettuce distributed to states and provinces across the U.S. and Canada because of fears of contamination.

5) Beef recall, February 2008

After determining that Westland Meat failed to prevent sick cattle from being turned into steaks on the supermarket shelves, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of their beef in early 2008.

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