Most Americans prepared to pay more to fund food safety, survey suggests

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety

Most Americans would be prepared to pay more for food in order to fund new food safety measures, according to a survey conducted on behalf of Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew-commissioned telephone poll of 1,015 likely voters was carried out by Hart Research and American Viewpoint, and found that two-thirds (66 percent) supported extra funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out new food safety responsibilities.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, introduced in the wake of a spate of foodborne illness outbreaks, was signed into law on January 4. However, the estimated $1.4bn of funding needed to implement the new legislation over the next five years has been called into question as lawmakers have sought to cut food regulatory agencies’ budgets. The Pew survey found that 74 percent of respondents thought it would be worth paying 1 to 3 percent more for food in order to pay for the legislation’s new food safety measures.

Erik Olson, who directs food programs for the Pew Health Group, said: “For too long the FDA, which is responsible for the safety of over 80 percent of the foods we eat, has not had adequate resources or power to protect Americans from dangers in the food supply. This poll reflects a strong belief that Americans are willing to pay more to ensure that the FDA is protecting the safety of the food they put on their family’s dinner table.”

In addition, the poll found that 70 percent of those surveyed favored an annual $1,000 fee for food companies to cover the cost of the legislation – a provision that was included in an initial version of the legislation, which was later cut to $500 after industry raised concerns, and was eventually dropped from the final version.

Among other measures, the Food Safety Modernization Act provides the FDA with the authority to order recalls, requires food manufacturers to keep more detailed food safety records, allows the FDA greater access to food companies’ documents, and requires that countries exporting food to the United States should certify that their food safety standards meet US standards.

The poll found that a quarter of those surveyed ‘worry a great deal’ about foodborne illness. Eighty-five percent said they think the government should be responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat and 71 percent said the FDA plays a ‘very important’ or ‘essential’ role in protecting Americans’ health and safety.

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