Each year, about 76 million people contract a foodborne illness in the United States; about 325,000 require hospitalization; and about 5,000 die. The outbreaks of E. coli in spinach and Salmonella in peanut butter, along with contamination in pet food, have highlighted the risks posed by accidental food contamination. The attacks of September 11, 2001, heightened awareness that the food supply could also be vulnerable to deliberate contamination. This testimony focuses on the (1) role that GAO's high-risk series can play in raising the priority and visibility of the need to transform federal oversight of food safety, (2) fragmented nature of federal oversight of food safety, and (3) limitations in federal food recall programs.
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