March 5, 2013
The following post appears courtesy of the Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch in honor of National Consumer Protection Week. We are all aware of the importance of making healthy choices when it comes to foods, but some foods may be bad for your health in unexpected ways. In the last year, Americans have suffered through a significant number of illness outbreaks linked to such common foods as peanut butter, cantaloupe, ricotta cheese, and spinach. The vast majority of food on our grocery shelves is safe – a historically significant accomplishment for which many people in the private and public sectors should be proud. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million people in America – one in six of us – get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases. The dangers of foodborne illness must spur us all towards increased vigilance and, when appropriate, increased enforcement of our food safety laws. With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice is dedicated to ensuring the safety of foods eaten by Americans every day. We are also joined in this effort by the vast majority of food producers and preparers – people from around the country who take seriously the crucial importance of preparing good, safe food. It is illegal for any person to introduce into interstate commerce an “adulterated” food. Food is adulterated if it contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render the food injurious to health. For example, if the food contains E. coli, it is adulterated, and the shipment of that food may constitute a crime. Food is also adulterated if:
- it has been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions, and
- may have become contaminated with filth, or
- injurious to health.
Updated September 15, 2014