Put Food Safety On The Menu
Published: November 19, 2008
Source of Article: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/nov/19/na-put-food-safety-on-the-menu/
There's a full plate of
urgent issues awaiting President-elect Barack Obama and the
next Congress. The Government Accountability Office, Congress' nonpartisan
watchdog, listed 13 of them recently. Along with some obvious choices, such
as the wars in
The government's ability to safeguard the nation's food supply and respond quickly to outbreaks of food-borne illness is undermined by "the fragmented nature of the federal food oversight system," the GAO said. There are 15 federal agencies administering at least 30 laws; that leads to poor coordination, inconsistent policy and wasted resources.
Anyone not convinced that improving food safety is important should talk
The FDA later switched to blaming contaminated peppers from
The salmonella outbreak, which sickened at least 1,400 Americans, was the latest in a series of food scares in recent years tied to contaminated fresh produce, including spinach, lettuce and cantaloupes. So while the government is rightly urging Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables for good health, it's falling short in protecting produce.
The FDA, charged with ensuring the safety of 80 percent of the nation's food supply, has been underfunded and understaffed for years. That has left too few resources for inspections, enforcement and scientific research. Congress and the president belatedly began moving in the wake of the salmonella outbreak to increase the agency's budget.
But stronger laws and better coordination among regulators also are needed to adapt to today's globalized food supply and better prevent or trace illness outbreaks. Members of both parties in Congress, including Republican Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, have been working together on these kinds of improvements.
In particular, the FDA needs to establish mandatory national safety standards that would apply to fresh produce from farm to fork, based on the best science available. Those national standards would replace a patchwork of state and industry standards around the country, and fill in gaps where no standards exist. They would also be applied to imported produce.
Groups representing the nation's fruit and vegetable growers have said they'd welcome the standards. They know how wide the damage from even an isolated case of tainted produce can spread.
The Obama administration needs to save some room for protecting public health by making overdue improvements to food safety.
Copyright (C) All rights reserved under FoodHACCP.com
If you have any comments, please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org