Food and the FDA

March 17, 2009
by Editorial Staff
Los Angeles Times

Even the food industry has come to agree: This country must reform its ineffective food safety system. Beef, peanuts, salsa -- over the last year alone, the American public has been given reason after reason to lose confidence in the food, imported and domestic, that it puts on the table. That's why we welcome President Obama's naming of two consumer-minded leaders to head the Food and Drug Administration, his creation of a panel to examine ways of streamlining food safety procedures now spread among several agencies, and his support for more frequent inspections.

Change starts with leadership. In Margaret A. Hamburg, the nominee for FDA commissioner, Obama has found an innovative, diligent and respected expert in public health and safety whose credits include reducing tuberculosis rates in New York City when she was health commissioner there. Her areas of expertise are complemented by those of Joshua Sharfstein, the Baltimore health commissioner who led a push to limit the use and marketing of over-the-counter pediatric cough and cold remedies. Repeated studies have found that the medications, a $2-billion-a-year industry, are no more effective in young children than a placebo, and that the potential for dangerous overdose is high. His work led to labeling reforms.

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