Food safety falls short in the U.S., consumer group says

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By Maggie Fox

Contaminated beef makes 333 people sick. Kosher poultry carrying Salmonella kills one person and puts 11 into the hospital. And, perhaps most startling, federal health officials tell Americans to stop eating all romaine lettuce because of an outbreak of E. coli.

If it seems like there are more food recalls lately, it’s because there are. And a new report Thursday from the Public Interest Research Group argues that federal health officials can and should be doing more to protect the U.S. food supply.

“These recalls are a warning to everyone that something is rotten in our fields and slaughterhouses. Government agencies need to make sure that the food that reaches people’s mouths won’t make them sick,” said Adam Garber, the group’s consumer watchdog.

PIRG found a 10 percent increase in food recalls of all types between 2013 and 2018 across the U.S. Broken down by food type, there was a 67 percent increase in meat and poultry recalls and a 2 percent rise in produce and processed food recalls, according to the group’s analysis of federal government data.

And while the government says the U.S. food supply is very safe, the consumer group says it could be safer.

“There are systemic failures in the food system, which means that we are still rolling the dice when we go food shopping,” PIRG’S Viveth Karthikeyan, who worked on the report, told NBC News.

“Americans should be confident that their food is safe and uncontaminated.”