America’s food safety system needs a top-to-bottom overhaul

April 2, 2009
by St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial staff
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Safeguards that are supposed to protect Americans from tainted food are obsolete, ineffective and in urgent need of revision.

A new report from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recommends concrete steps to create an integrated food safety system:

  • Laws should be updated to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater legal authority.
  • A single food safety agency should be created.
  • Agency budgets must be increased to buy newer technology and hire additional staff.
  • Coordination must be improved, and industry standards that often are voluntary must be mandatory. Companies must be required to notify food safety agencies when contaminated product is discovered.

The nation's food safety system hasn't kept pace with rapid changes in global food supply - the explosion of processing facilities here and the transportation improvements that bring the world's agricultural bounty into American supermarkets. To keep relying on an inspection system designed in the early 20th century to protect against 21st-century problems is worse than naive, it's just plain nuts.


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