Skip to content

Statement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) at the HELP Committee hearing on


“Good morning everyone. We meet today to discuss an issue of basic importance to all Americans: the safety of our nation’s food supply.

“There is perhaps no issue that affects Americans as universally as food safety. Safe food is an essential part of our daily lives. And, for many in Iowa and elsewhere, the production, preparation, or sale of food is a source of livelihood.

“On the whole, Americans enjoy safe and wholesome food. But, let’s be honest, our food can be safer and it must be safer.

Recent food outbreaks linked to spinach, peppers, peanut products, and cookie dough dramatize two important truths: First, our current regulatory system does not adequately protect Americans from serious, widespread food-borne illnesses. Second, the dangers associated with food-borne outbreaks are profound.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses each year, including approximately 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States. These numbers are staggering and totally intolerable.

“That’s why, as we focus on national health care reform, we can’t afford to ignore food safety. Unsafe food is yet another strain on our health care system. And it is a problem that we can and must address now.