HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Food Safety - Still Questionable

The LA Times reports on the latest food recall - pistachios and has a brief article about the need for reform of our food safety laws.  Mary MacVean writes,

Consumers could be forgiven for feeling a little weary about this week's recall of pistachios that might be contaminated with salmonella.  It comes just weeks after thousands of products containing peanuts were voluntarily recalled in a salmonella outbreak that sickened about 700 people, and follows highly publicized food-borne disease outbreaks connected to peppers and spinach.  As consumers, we all have that reaction, 'Here we go again,' " said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to reform the food safety system.  

But the string of alerts keeps food safety on the minds of Americans and could lead to legislative changes in California and the rest of the country. . . .

Among the changes under consideration in legislation before Congress are giving the FDA mandatory authority to recall products; requirements for food safety systems at companies to minimize the chance of contamination during production; increased inspections; more funding; and a better way to track products around the country.

"The reality of the basic system at FDA is that there is no requirement for companies to have in place modern preventive controls," said Mike Taylor, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and a former FDA official. "A lot of companies do it, and Kraft is one of the leaders. They're doing the kinds of things you'd like the whole system to do."

There also are calls to split up the FDA and establish a Food Safety Administration. That may be premature, Kathleen Sebelius, the nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, said at her confirmation hearing Wednesday. First, she said, the FDA should be restored "as a world-class regulatory agency." . . .

In addition, a California bill by two Los Angeles Democrats, Assemblyman Mike Feuer and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, would require food processors in the state to have plans in place to prevent contamination and to respond quickly if it occurred.  The legislation would require periodic testing and that any positive result for a dangerous contaminant be reported within 24 hours.  Feuer said he was not aware, and expected most consumers did not know, that testing and reporting results were not mandatory. . . .

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