In a strong bipartisan showing, the U.S. Senate today passed legislation bolstering the nation's food safety laws. The Food Safety and Modernization Act, among other things, gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to respond to disease outbreaks such as those affecting beef, spinach, peanuts and other products in recent years.
To get a sense of the scale of the problem, take a look at the CDC statistical report Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States. Drawing from multiple data sources, the authors estimate that "foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year." According to the tables, the biggest causes of illness are the Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria, Giardia parasite and Norwalk-like viruses. The deadliest agents are Salmonella, Listeria and Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in undercooked meat.