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Georgia Moves To Strengthen Food Inspections

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, February 20, 2009 3:29 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Peanut Butter, Salmonella, FDA, CDC, Foodborne Illness, Public Health

Georgia wants to become the first state in the nation to require immediate reporting of food contamination.

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IMAGE SOURCE:   WikiMedia Commons 

 

A bill that requires food producers to notify the state within 24 hours if any contamination is found in a plant, passed unanimously in the Georgia state Senate Wednesday. 

SB 80, is designed to increase consumer confidence over the safety of food following the now-closed Blakely, Georgia Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plant, sourced as the cause of a nationwide salmonella outbreak. 

If passed by the House, Georgia will become the first state to require internal reporting to the government.

The bill also requires companies to conduct tests at least once a year. State and federal inspections would be required. 

The Athens Banner-Herald of Athens, Ga., published an editorial Thursday that said, "in truth, there's nothing much to be celebrated in connection with Senate Bill 80." The bill codifies "what should have been a long-standing set of common-sense testing standards that, if they'd been in place already, arguably could have prevented the deaths and illnesses traced to the South Georgia peanut plant. . . . While it's a good thing that federal and state lawmakers are now focused on food safety issues, there's an abiding sadness in the fact that it took deaths and illnesses to produce that focus. And it's sadder still that those deaths and illnesses might have been prevented with just a little legislative forethought."

There are 60 employed by Georgia to oversee 16,000 facilities statewide that deal with food.  The FDA had farmed out responsibility for inspecting  peanuts to state inspectors since 2001.

The portion of the bill that discusses frequency of testing is up for discussion. 

The $2.5 billion peanut industry is suffering in Georgia. 

PCA filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week and plans to liquidate its assets. The company is under FBI investigation as is its Texas plant where the discovery of rodents and feces has companies destroying anything that came from there.  

Update

So far more than 600 people have been sickened and nine deaths are linked to salmonella contamination.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has a list of recalled products about 2,100 items long.   Including the most recent Grandpa’s Oven Santa Fe Snack Mix, Slim-Fast bars and snack trays sold by 1-800-Flowers.com.

The Associated Press reports that only a fraction of food poisoning cases are ever reported. One in three cases of diarrhea that lasts a day or more may be due to food poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions. 

There are about 250 different food related illnesses including viruses, parasites, and bacteria.   A decade ago, the CDC estimated about 5,000 people died annually from food poisoning which accounted for more than 325,000 hospitalizations.  

As technology allows scientists to identify food related outbreaks it may seem to make the picture seem worse, though the number of confirmed food poisoning cases is steady every year.   #


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