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Poll Looks At What's On Your Plate and Where It's Coming From

September 18, 2009

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A new survey shows consumers want the government to increase oversight over food production and delivery. The poll, commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts, says consumers are voicing great concern over the safety of food imported from other countries as well as the infrequency of inspections at food manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Erik Olson, director of food and consumer safety for the Pew Health Group, says the survey of 1,000 people nationwide shows that consumers want three major safety processes for the food they eat.

"They want to make sure our imported foods are safe, that we're testing our food, and test results showing contamination are reported to the federal government. Also, there needs to be a good, strong system for tracing contamination."

A large majority of respondents said food facility inspections, as they stand now, don't occur nearly often enough, says Olson.

"FDA inspects food facilities, on average, only once every ten years, and three out of four people thought there should be more-frequent F.D.A. inspections; every six to twelve months, at least."

Close to two out of three people who answered the survey worry about the food produced outside the country, he adds.

"64 percent of the public in this poll found that imported food was sometimes, or rarely safe. That is a pretty significant finding, we think."

Food safety advocates are urging the Senate to consider legislation giving the FDA new oversight and enforcement powers. In July, the House passed its version of the bill, which includes stronger inspection authority for food facilities, both in the U.S. and in other countries that export to the U.S. Also, the FDA has just enacted the Reportable Food Registry, requiring companies to contact the agency within 24 hours of any report that a product may cause a health risk to humans or animals.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY