For Immediate Release: Contact:
Sunday, November 18, 1990  Corey Bearak
(718) 343-6779

Food Inspection Cutbacks May Turn Stomachs

by Corey Bearak

Government cutbacks in inspecting and regulating the food we eat may put us at risk.  Mark Green, Commissioner of the City Department of Consumer Affairs, and Henry Gilgoff of Newsday both delivered this message at a forum, "Consumer Rights in Relation to Nutrition and Food," presented by the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council on Sunday, November 18 at the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck.

Government should ban a dangerous product or, at least, educate consumers about the dangers, Green said. Gilgoff added that the result of a mistake should not be death. Mr. Gilgoff said budget cutbacks pose an imminent danger when it comes to the safety of the food we eat.  Green and Gilgoff were appearing at the second of a three-part series, “Eating to Live and Living To Eat – Nutrition and Dieting – The Path To Good Health.”

Green noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) poultry inspectors checked 90 chickens per minute, up from 30. The commissioner said an increase from 30 to 25 chickens inspected per minute might be considered “productivity.”
He suggested the three-fold increase to 90 chicken inspections per minute posed real health threats to consumers. He reported increases in salmonella and other disease. Green advised that federal preemption of local laws limits New York City's ability to regulate food. The City's Health Department performs restaurant inspections. The Consumer Affairs Department licenses business and lobbies for needed federal and state legislation, the commissioner explained.

Green said the City lobbied for legislation to require inspection of fish. Different bills passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but Mr. Green said federal lawmakers were unable to reconcile the bills in time to pass a law this session of Congress.  He also outlined plans, still in preliminary stages, to have fast food restaurants to post nutritional and ingredient information.

As another example of local initiative, Green described plans to require the segregation of waxed produce. Consumer advocates and health experts have expressed concern that pesticide does not wash off waxed produce, he said.
Gilgoff discussed the State's item pricing law, which expires this year. He noted that the current law exempts milk, eggs and fresh produce. It also exempts products on sale for 14 days and up tp 4.5 percent of all other consumer products in a score.
Products covered by the latter can vary from store to store. He said critics of this law called it “doomed to fail” and “useless.” Its enforcement depends upon the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets which, Gilgoff suggested, lacks the resources to ensure item-packing is correctly implemented.  He advised consumers to contact their state legislators to strengthen the law's requirements when they consider its renewal.

Both Gilgoff and Green praised the passage of the new federal labeling law.
Green said Congress passed the law, despite the President's opposition, due to broad public support. Mr. Gilgoff noted that the Food and Drug Administration must promulgate regulations. He added that the law allows manufacturers two years to label their products.



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