Food Safety Scares 2013

American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Food
Released by: ConnPIRG Education Fund

Over the past few years, Americans have grown accustomed to seeing headlines about tainted food being recalled and pulled off store shelves. These high-profile recalls leave many Americans wondering whether enough is being done to reduce the risk of contaminated food and foodborne illness. And they are right to do so—48 million people get sick from eating tainted food each year, and despite significant costs to our economy and Americans’ public health, the number of such illnesses, particularly from Salmonella, has remained stagnant for at least 5 years. 

More needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. But important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety have been blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue. 

This report is a snapshot look, from October 2012 to October 2013, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness. Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 2 dead. And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 12 months comes to over $21 million.

According to recall information compiled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), from October 2012 to October 2013 there were:

  • 1,494 foodborne Illnesses linked to recalls of food products; 
  • 335 hospitalizations due to recalled food products;
  • 2 deaths linked to recalls of food products;
  • 615 incidences of Salmonella linked to recalls of food products; and
  • 643 incidences of Cyclospora linked to recalls of food products.

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