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Concerns Rise Over U.S. Food Safety
Date:10/11/2007

Recalls, food poisonings point to serious shortcomings, some experts say

THURSDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In the last week:

  • Topps, which billed itself as the leading U.S. maker of frozen hamburger patties, declared bankruptcy after the company recalled 22 million pounds of beef due to E. coli contamination.
  • Sam's Club issued a nationwide recall of 840,000 pounds of a brand of beef patties believed to be responsible for four cases of E. coli poisoning.
  • ConAgra Foods asked stores to remove its popular Banquet Chicken and Turkey pot pies after they were linked to at least 139 cases of salmonella in 39 states.
  • 145 cases of food poisoning were reported in the United States.

A coincidence? Or is there a larger -- and worrisome -- problem with food safety in the United States?

Experts say the events of the last week owe to a combination of heightened public attention as well as significant flaws in the nation's food-safety system, including both production and oversight.

"This is just all an indication of the problems we have in the system," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union. "There's a heightened awareness about it, because the media is picking up on things. The [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] data shows an uptick of food-poisoning cases. And, in a heightened environment of attention, the government acts more."

These problems are just the latest in a long line of mishaps. For example, ConAgra, which made the questionable pot pies, also made the peanut butter tainted with salmonella that sickened 625 people in 47 states earlier this year.

What's going wrong?

For one thing, it's likely that given the current environment of heightened sensitivity to food safety, consumers -- and patients -- are connecting the dots more frequently.

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