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Poll Looks at What's on Your Plate and Where It's Coming From

October 5, 2009

CONCORD, N.H. - As the saying goes, 'You are what you eat,' and a new survey shows major concern about where our food comes from and who's making sure it's safe. Erik Olson, director of food and consumer safety for the Pew Health Group, says a Pew-commissioned survey of a thousand people nationwide shows that consumers want three major things happening with the foods they eat.

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

Olson says a large majority of respondents say that food facility inspections, as they stand now, don't happen nearly often enough.

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

Olson says close to two out of three people who took the survey worry about the food coming from outside the country.

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

Food safety advocates are encouraging the U.S. Senate to consider legislation that gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new oversight and enforcement powers. The House in July passed its version of the bill, which includes stronger inspection authority for food facilities both at home and in other countries that export food to the U.S. Also, the FDA has just put in place the Reportable Food Registry, requiring companies to contact the agency within 24 hours of receiving any report that a product may cause a health risk to humans or animals.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH