Imported Foods Sicken Lots of People. Trump Is Unlikely to Fix That.
Overall foodborne illness outbreaks have declined in recent years. But ones that stem from imported foods have risen sharply—from an average of three per year in the late 1990s to 18 annually between 2009 and 2014. That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
A new rule, finalized under President Barack Obama, charges the FDA to ramp up oversight of imports, requiring that importers verify that their suppliers are meeting the same safety standards required of domestic producers, the study notes. The requirement “will help to strengthen the safety of imported foods,” the FDA and CDC researchers write. But providing sufficient funds to enforce that rule now falls to a new president who is openly hostile to regulation and a Congress itching to slash funding to federal agencies like the FDA.
Overall, imported food still has a pretty decent safety record compared to the stuff produced here. About 19.4 percent of the food we eat is imported, yet it accounts for just 5 percent of total outbreaks, the study found. But the situation appears to be getting worse. Back in the 1990s, imports made up 12 percent of the food supply and triggered just 1 percent of recalls. In other words, imported food as a share of what we eat have risen by 62 percent since the 1990s, while the share of outbreaks attributed to imported food has risen by a factor of five.
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