Food Security – Inspections on Imports, Part 2

Rachel Martin on Food Security – Inspections on Imports, Part 2

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

 

This is the final segment of a two-part series with national chairman of Homeland Security for the National Federation of Republican Women, Rachel Martin on food security  – Inspections on imports into the United States.

Due to budget cuts, as reported in Part 1, the Department of Homeland Security inspects only 1 in every 60 containers arriving in the U.S. This ratio brings up two issues, according to Martin: (1) the threat of terrorism and (2) concern over food safety. Failure to properly inspect imported containers exposes American citizens to toxins in imported goods that don’t meet the same regulatory standards as food products produced in the United States.

“When you’re doing things en masse,” Martin said, “and the [containers with imported food] are not being inspected, many dangers can come into the country that can kill people—especially the elderly and kids because we know they are more susceptible to bacteria and chemical toxins.”

While she is aware of the potential for accidents and mistakes in food safety, Martin said risking the safety of our country and citizens by inspecting only a limited number of imported containers to save money is more harmful than helpful. “Accidents are going to happen with any food,” Martin said, “even with when I cook for myself in my own kitchen. I may undercook my meal, and there is a possibility I can get food poisoning that way.”

Martin said the Obama administration’s budget cuts have hurt Homeland Security’s inspection rate on food imports. “Number one, it’s not right, there are so many regulations here that we have to deal with,” Martin said. “And number two, it’s wrong that these containers are not inspected because people can become very ill and be killed by food toxins that come into the country in the absence of inspection. ‘Not to mention, the terrorists, bombs, weapons and anything else that is dangerous that could be on those containers.”

 

Salmonella Data Now at Your Fingertips

Forty years of Salmonella data, a major cause of food poisoning, is now available to the public, the food industry, and researchers in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The data, collected by state and federal health officials, provides a wealth of information on Salmonella, the top foodborne cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

Available for hands-on web access for the first time, the Atlas of Salmonella in the United States, 1968-2011 summarizes surveillance data on 32 types of Salmonella isolates from people, animals, and other sources. The information is organized by demographic, geographic and other categories.

“Salmonella causes a huge amount of illness and suffering each year in the United States. We hope these data allow researchers and others to assess what has happened and think more about how we can reduce Salmonella infections in the future,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “The more we understand Salmonella, the more we can make progress in fighting this threat all along the farm to table chain.”

CDC estimates that Salmonella bacteria cause more than 1.2 million illnesses each year in the United States, resulting in more than 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Salmonella infections most often cause vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes severe. In rare cases, Salmonella illness can lead to severe and life-threatening bloodstream infections.

By providing data by age, sex, geography, and season of the year in a downloadable format, the Atlas allows users to view national trends in reported cases of human Salmonella infection over time, problems in specific geographic areas, sources of Salmonella, and the connection between animal and human health.

Serotyping has been the core of public health monitoring of Salmonella infections for over 50 years. Now, scientists use DNA testing to further divide each serotype into more subtypes and to detect more outbreaks.

With the next generation of sequencing technology, advancements continue as the laboratory can find information about the bacteria in just one test.

The data presented likely represent just the tip of the iceberg since many cases of human salmonellosis are not diagnosed and reported to the health department. This underreporting may occur because the ill person does not seek medical care, the health care provider does not obtain a stool culture for testing, or the culture results are not reported to public health officials.

The Salmonella group of bacteria has more than 2,500 different serotypes, but fewer than 100 cause the vast majority of infections in people. Older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and children under five years old have a higher risk for Salmonella infection. Infections in these groups can be more severe, resulting in long-term health consequences or death.

To access the Atlas, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/reportspubs/salmonella-atlas/index.html.

For more information on Salmonella, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/.

For more information on food safety, please visit: www.foodsafety.gov.

For more information about preventing Salmonella infections, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/general/prevention.html.

If you have any questions, please contact:  CDC Media Relations at (404) 639-3286.