Obama Orders Tough Food Safety Steps

The Obama administration continues to take steps to toughen America’s <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety laws and reduce dangerous—often-deadly—pathogen contamination outbreaks such as Salmonella and E. coli. Reuters reported that the administration just ordered increased processes in U.S. food processing plants, developed a better tracing system for locating food borne illness origins, and also created a new deputy food commissioner post meant to coordinate food safety.

The actions were based on recommendations from a Food Safety Working Group created earlier this year by President Barack Obama following the massive salmonella outbreak linked to horrendous conditions at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). “The Working Group is recommending a new public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement and improving response and recovery,” the White House said in a statement, quoted Reuters.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for much of this country’s food safety, has been routinely criticized for lax oversight on such issues that include the historic outbreak linked to PCA. That outbreak sickened over 900 people and was linked to at least nine deaths; 46 states were involved and over 3,000 products were recalled, making it the largest food recall in American history. According to a prior Washington Post report, federal officials believe that tens of thousands more people were likely sickened.

Although a number of other deadly and widespread outbreaks have plagued the nation in recent years, it was the disgusting conditions and ongoing negligence involved in the PCA debacle that forced serious food safety reform. The scandals revealed during the outbreak highlighted myriad problems with current food safety processes and prompted attention from President Obama, said the Washington Post last month; the president continues to take steps to correct the issues hampering the battered agency and has called for an FDA and food safety system overhaul.

Last month we wrote that the food safety bill is moving through Congress, and was passed by bipartisan vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, noted Reuters. Also the administration’s proposed new actions will likely come before passage of the pending legislation.

The FDA issued a rule aimed at reducing salmonella contamination of eggs during production by increasing bacteria monitoring and efforts to stem the spread of the pathogen, said Reuters, which noted that the rule would save $1 billion and reduce illnesses by 60 percent. The administration also directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to develop standards to reduce salmonella in poultry by year-end and to improve surveillance and testing for E. coli in plants that handle beef, specifically ground beef, reported Reuters. Finally, the FDA will issue new guidance to industry by month-end to minimize E. coli contamination in tomatoes, melons, and green leafy vegetables, noted Reuters.

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