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Food recalls rack up $227 million

CHICAGO — Food recalls are on the rise and the nation’s food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by Illinois PIRG. Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs more than $77 billion in aggregated economic costs. In Illinois in the last 21 months, 108 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls, and the cost in Illinois was over $6 million.

“Every year we see hundreds of food products recalled because they have caused sickness and in some cases death. This year, 2012 has already seen nearly twice as many illnesses due to recalls as 2011, with high-profile recalls of cantaloupes and hundreds of thousands of jars of peanut butter,” said Hailey Witt, advocate for Illinois PIRG.

The report, “Total Food Recall: Unsafe Foods Putting American Lives at Risk,” analyzed nationwide recall information issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from January 2011 to September 2012.

During that period, there were:

• 1,753 foodborne Illnesses directly linked to recalls of food products from known pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella.

• 37 deaths directly linked to recalls of food products.

• $227 million in economic and health related costs linked to recalls of food products.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2011, with strong support from Illinois PIRG, consumer groups and public health groups. The law was designed to give the FDA new tools and new powers to protect consumers. However, the Act is still not being fully implemented and foods remain unsafe.

The report is available at http://illinoispirg.org/reports/ilp/total-food-recall/.

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