Monday, February 09, 2009

Safer food, safer consumers

Hopefully, amidst all the anguish surrounding the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and media gobbledigoop, the little matter of making sure our food is safe and the people who eat it less at risk won't get swept under the carpet.

Fortunately, someone now appears to be on the job (hat tip, Americablog).


WASHINGTON - The peanut recall offers a prime opportunity to merge all federal food safety oversight into one agency, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday.

Right now, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture share oversight responsibilities, along with other government agencies, dividing authority along lines that don't always make sense. For example, the FDA oversees eggs in the shell, while the Agriculture Department is responsible for processed egg products.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency share some food oversight as well.

"You can't have two systems and be able to reassure people you've got the job covered," Vilsack said. "This is a grand opportunity for us to take a step back and rethink our approach."

A salmonella outbreak blamed on Peanut Corp. of America has sickened at least 575 people in 43 states. At least eight have died. More than 1,300 foods that used ingredients from the company's processing plant in Blakely, Ga., have been recalled. While the outbreak appears to be slowing down, new illnesses are still being reported.

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