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

October 1, 2009

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - A new survey shows consumers want the government to step up its oversight of the food we eat. The Pew-commissioned poll of 1,000 people nationwide shows consumers are concerned about the safety of foods imported from other countries and the infrequency of inspections at facilities that manufacture and distribute food.

Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety for the Pew Health Group, says consumers have three major demands about the foods they eat.

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

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

"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."

Nearly two out of three people who took the survey worry about the food coming from outside the country, he adds.

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

Food safety advocates are encouraging the Senate to consider legislation granting the FDA new oversight and enforcement powers. The House passed its version of the bill in July, which includes stronger inspection authority over both domestic and foreign food facilities. The FDA 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.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN