"The announcement earlier this month of proposed federal food safety regulations certainly took long enough — the authorizing legislation, the Food Safety Modernization Act, was passed two years ago with bipartisan support. Between then and now, the nation has seen a number of incidents (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 15 multistate outbreaks) in which thousands of people took ill, even died, because of illness carried in contaminated food.
It’s a serious problem, one that has needed strong oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which had missed several deadlines to set the new guidelines. The scope of the problem is widespread: Roughly 1 in 6 Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year, with about 3,000 dying (a listeria outbreak connected to cantaloupe, for example, caused 33 deaths). Outbreaks of illnesses have been tied to salmonella, E. coli and listeria, linked to produce such as cantaloupe, spinach, peppers or lettuce, or even a prepared food such as peanut butter. Last year, production at a New Mexico plant was suspended because it appeared to be the source of a salmonella outbreak.
Now we can use new rules to make food safer. The rules aim to make farmers and food processors take better care before an outbreak; wisely, it’s more a prevention model than a way to track down the guilty after the damage is done."