OUR OPINION: Restoring the Food and Drug Administration

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Food poisoning can range from an unpleasant to a life-threatening event.

Conventional wisdom says that the elderly and children are most susceptible to food illnesses, but new findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its annual report should put other ages on alert.

2008 findings from the CDC suggest that more adults than just the elderly are at a high risk for food illnesses like E coli, salmonella and listeria bacteria.

CDC’s FoodNet findings show that persons 50 and older are at risk at significantly higher rates than children.

The food illness findings indicate that 53 percent of those over 50 were hospitalized for E. coli, compared to 31 percent of young kids. Of those hospitalized for salmonella, the ratio percentage for adults over age 50 was 40 percent and for young children 19 percent. 

Marketing analysts, and, we suspect, many persons over the age 50, do not consider everyone over 50 to be elderly. Persons in this age range should be made aware of possible food borne infections so they can be more alert than they may have been in the past.

What causes some age groups to be more susceptible is a mystery. But it is hardly secret that food safety in the United States is at a low ebb.

The government admitted last week that its effort to reduce food poisonings in the past four years did not lead to a lower rate. Fresh produce problems have actually led to more illnesses like the recent salmonella outbreak affecting over 1,400 people that has been traced to hot peppers from Mexico.

CDC officials say the nation has reached “a plateau” in the fight to prevent diseases passed through foods sold in the American market. They say something new has to be done to create safer food practices in the vast food chain that begins in the fields of American and import farmers and ends at the dining table.

The Food and Drug Administration, which has operated in recent years with a severely reduced budget and less authority to monitor food and drug markets, must be rejuvenated and returned to its role as the public's watchdog.

We believe one of a revamped FDA’s first charges must be to conduct more inspections and use its new tools to develop a means to quickly track food borne illnesses to the source.

It's time to arm the FDA with a new set of teeth and restore its ability to properly inspect and monitor food and drug producers and sellers in America.