beef380 million: The number of eggs in Colorado, California, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin recalled by Wright County Egg Farms this August due to possible salmonella contamination.

143 million: Pounds of ground beef recalled from Westland Meat in 2008 because the company let sick animals into their system.

$152 million: How much the US spends on food-related illnesses each year.

1809: Estimated number of people who die from food pathogen-related illnesses each year according to Centers for Disease Control.

This is why we were long overdue for new food safety regulation -- because apparently these companies are not run by grown ups. Hello 2010 Food Safety Modernization bill! I'm glad you're here.

The Senate passed the Food Safety bill just this Tuesday. The bill has sent the usual small government folks howling: Oh no, not more regulation!

OH YES! More regulation, whiners, more delicious regulation.

Someday, when the majority of our food is produced by responsible adults instead of by a pack of profit-hungry wolves, we won't need no regulation. Until then, the yahoos need some rules.

Here's what the new food safety bill will give us:

  1. Mandatory food recalls: Instead of waiting for food companies to have the good sense to voluntarily recall their food (which they always do too late), the FDA can order a food recall.
  2. The largest food companies have to register with the FDA and show their food safety plans.
  3. FDA will create new safety rules for produce.
  4. CDC and State Health Departments will coordinate food illness surveillance -- this means better tracking and record keeping so people like Senator Coburn have less wiggle-room for lying through a Senate hearing. (Ten food-related deaths a year? Seriously?!?)
  5. Enact stricter safety standards for imported food. Remember melamine from China?
  6. Increase the number of inspections of food plants, especially at high-risk plants.

Small producers will be exempt from these new federal regulations. And if you've heard the rumor about seed saving, yes: Seed saving will still be legal but it will be more difficult for farms. That does suck. It's not a perfect bill.

Of course, the bill still may not see the light of day. It has to be reconciled by the House before it goes to the White House to get signed, and thanks to some cockamamie technicality, it could still die. A new day for food safety or back to business as usual? We'll soon see.

 

Image via ilovebutter/Flickr