The report, How Safe is Our Food?, published by the United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), stated there were “fundamental flaws” in the current food safety system that had led to a jump in recalls since 2013.
According to the report, there has been an 83% increase in meat and poultry recalls that can cause serious health problems, or what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class 1 recalls define as: “involving a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death”.
This includes recalls involving beef withdrawn due to E.coli, and poultry due to Salmonella.
“The food we nourish our bodies with shouldn’t pose a serious health risk. But systemic failures mean we’re often rolling the dice when we go grocery shopping or eat out,” said Adam Garber, US PIRG Consumer Watchdog. “We can prevent serious health risks by using common-sense protections from farm to fork.”
The report revealed that food recalls overall increased by 10%.
US PIRG used the report to criticise what it described as “archaic laws” stating that it was “currently legal to sell meat that tests positive for dangerous strains of Salmonella”.
The report added: “A case study of the recent recall of 12 million pounds of beef sold by JBS could likely have been prevented if this policy was changed.”
“These recalls are a warning to everyone that something is rotten in our fields and slaughterhouses,” added Viveth Karthikeyan, US PIRG consumer watchdog associate. “Government agencies need to make sure that the food that reaches people’s mouths won’t make them sick.”
In response to the report, the American Association of Meat Processors executive director Chris Young said: "Class I recalls can occur from several factors, including misbranding and undeclared allergens. We know the laws and regulations that meat processors have to follow under the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). While there has been an increase in recalls in recent years, the industry will continue to work diligently with FSIS to take better control of those circumstances.
"Any raw or undercooked meats, as well as eggs, milk, etc., have the potential for Salmonella outbreaks. Consumers should always practice due diligence to avoid foodborne illnesses, such as washing hands after handling raw meat, avoid bringing uncooked meat into contact with food that will not be cooked, and thoroughly washing hands after using the restroom.”