After two frustrating years of delay, the U.S. Food and Drug administration should soon have the power to prevent food-borne outbreaks rather than merely reacting to them.
The FDA last week issued vitally important food safety rules that should help the agency operate with far greater efficiency and authority. If adopted, they will require better record-keeping from food producers and give the FDA the power to recall contaminated food under its own authority, rather than relying on voluntary action by industry. (The FDA, the agency in charge of keeping America’s food safe, has never had the power to order a recall of tainted food.)
President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act on Jan. 4, 2010. Yet the new rules remained mired until last week in the Office of Management and Budget, despite an urgent need for them in a country where each year contaminated foods sicken 48 million and kill 3,000.
The unconscionable delay between congressional approval and completion of the rulemaking and review process had real consequence. Since last summer alone, outbreaks of salmonella in peanut butter, cantaloupe and mangoes and listeria in cheese were linked to more than 400 illnesses and seven deaths.