retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Los Angeles Times reports that a new report sponsored by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University says that “the health-related costs of food-borne illnesses total $152 billion a year, including the costs of medical bills, lost wages and lost productivity. That total is more than four times that of earlier estimates calculated by the US Department of Agriculture.

“The findings come as regulatory efforts to patrol the country's food sector are growing amid reports of a string of costly - and sometimes fatal - outbreaks of food-borne illness involving peanuts, jalapeno peppers, spinach, beef and other foods.”

Previous research, according to the Times, “looked at the fallout from only a handful of food-borne pathogens and didn't include as many long-term effects from such illnesses, including how they can affect a person's quality of life.” The new report looked at some 27 pathogens, some of which, “such as norovirus or salmonella, are responsible for making a million or more Americans sick each year; others, such as botulism, sicken far fewer people.”

The problem is that while the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would create far greater safety-related oversight of the nation’s food industry, and a version of this bill has passed a US Senate Committee, it is going nowhere in the full Senate, which is preoccupied, ironically, on health care legislation meant to address the high cost of health care.
KC's View:
It is frustrating that Congress can’t get this bill passed and onto President Obama’s desk. There seems to be generally bi-partisan support for it (the bill passed the Senate committee by a unanimous vote), and it would deal both with health care costs and food safety issues. It won;t be a magic bullet, but it can’t hurt.