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Food Safety Rules Slowly Paying Off

Despite food recalls and disease outbreaks frequently making headlines, data is showing that cases of foodborne illness are slowly declining.

The number of illnesses from E. coli in the US declined significantly from 1998 to 2014.

Yay, More Recalls

We should totally be happy about all these food recalls and food-borne disease outbreaks. Well, we should be glad we know about them, at least.

According to Quartz and food watcher Marion Nestle, it’s a sign that the system is starting to work.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control Over show that illnesses during outbreaks declined by more than half from 1998 to 2014, from about 27,156 cases to 13,287.

A decade ago, the number of yearly recalls hovered between 30 and 50, but by 2015 that number jumped to 150, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Regulation Works

Food safety advocates say those gains are due to better legislation.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in 2011, made sweeping changes to the way the government tracks outbreaks, sends alerts and issues recalls.

The law, which is slowly going into effect, gives the government more oversight, allows them to force companies to take more responsibility for testing and to force companies to take action if diseases are detected in their factories.

Compare and Contrast

New rules to crack down on E. coli were implemented after a 1993 outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants infected 732 people.

The rules allowed inspectors to test more products and gave them the power to recall products if inspectors even suspect contamination.

The number of illnesses from E. coli fell from 1615 to 272 from 1998 to 2014, while the number of salmonella infections only declined from 2852 to 2597 over the same period.

The difference, say advocates, is that salmonella is not subject to the same rule

E. coli is considered to be a food “adulterant,” but salmonella doesn’t get that label because it occurs so commonly.

Read More:

  • The System For Catching Dangerous Pathogens In America’s Food Supply Is Finally Working (Quartz)
  • Food Is Getting Safer, Baby Step By Baby Step (Food Politics)
  • A Few Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Compliance Dates Extended (National Law Review)
Chad Bouchard

Chad Bouchard is a veteran reporter and WFIU alum who has covered wild and wooly beats from Indonesia to Capitol Hill. His radio work has aired on NPR, PRI and Voice of America, and his writing has appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and Scientific American’s health magazine, Lives. He has also spent a lifetime gardening, foraging and eating weird stuff.

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