When It Comes to Food Safety, Consumer Confidence Has Been Undermined.

That's what the GAO says in its testimony prepared for a house hearing this morning on food safety.  "Recent outbreaks such as E. coli from spinach and SALMONELLA from TOMATOES have UNDERMINED CONSUMER CONFIDENCE in the SAFETY OF THE FOOD SUPPLY."  GAO will say the FDA's FOOD PROTECTION PLAN launched just last November LACKS DETAILS ON RESOURCES and STRATEGIES NEEDED TO MAKE IT WORK. It is a daunting task!  GAO says the FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of "roughly 80% of the U.S. FOOD SUPPLY including $417 BILLION worth of DOMESTIC food and $49 BILLION worth of imported food each year." The agency says there are 65,500 DOMESTIC FOOD FIRMS regulated by the FDA and if government inspectors were to visit each JUST ONCE, it would cost a staggering $524 MILLION.  And while the number of those domestic firms has increased from 51,000 in 2001 to more than 65,000 in 2007, the number of firms actually inspected has DECLINED from 14,721 to 14,566. And get this---in 1998 the GAO put out a report entitled "FOOD SAFETY: FEDERAL EFFORTS TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF IMPORTED FOODS ARE INCONSISTENT AND UNRELIABLE."  GAO's Lisa Shames will tell congress today that "A DECADE LATER THE STORY REMAINS THE SAME AND HAS ONLY TAKEN ON A GREATER SENSE OF URGENCY..."       

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