Sunday, March 15, 2009
Obama warns of US food 'hazard'
President Barack Obama has said the US food safety system is a "public health hazard" and in need of an overhaul.
He sounded the warning during his weekly radio and video address, as he appointed a new head of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
New York Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has been named for the post.
The appointment of 53-year-old Dr Hamburg, a bioterrorism expert who was an assistant health secretary under President Bill Clinton, must be approved by the Senate.
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Hazards in food cause an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year, most of which are never reported to public health officials. These illnesses cost American taxpayers approximately $6.9 billion annually in medical costs, hospitalizations, and lost work time according to the Economic Research Service (USDA). Despite advances in food production and processing, foodborne illnesses from hazards such as Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Listeria, continue to be a significant public health problem. At greatest risk are older Americans, children, pregnant women and their unborn children, and those with compromised immune systems. Bioterrorism also poses a threat to the nation’s food supply.