''As Food Recalls Mount, White House Still Lingering Over New Safety Rules''
"Families who’ve lost loved ones to foodborne illnesses have watched with alarm in recent months as producers have recalled mangoes, cantaloupe, ricotta cheese, dog food and peanut butter after people were sickened by the tainted goods.A landmark food safety law passed nearly two years ago was supposed to help curtail such outbreaks. But the Obama administration has yet to issue the final rules that will give the Food and Drug Administration more authority over food producers.
The rules are supposed hold producers accountable for the quality of their products and produce and will allow federal regulators to better track and contain outbreaks. Some food safety advocates believe such rules could have helped prevent the most recent salmonella outbreak in peanut butter, which has sickened 35 people since June, mostly children younger than 10. A peanut butter recall was expanded last week and fallout continues; on Wednesday an ice cream company in California, Clemmy’s, recalled its peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream because of salmonella fears.
"We have to get ahead of it,” said Paul Schwarz of Independence, Mo., whose 92-year-old father died earlier this year after eating cantaloupe tainted with listeria, a particularly nasty bacteria for older people to fight off. "It’s not a matter of party. To me, it’s a matter of life or death."
"Food safety advocates are antsy. "We’ve got to get these things moving," said Sandra Eskin, the project director of the Pew Health Group’s Food Safety Campaign.
Producers, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food producers who sell goods to grocery stores, want the rules released, too, said Leon Bruner, chief science officer for group.
The new law will require processors to look at their entire operation to identify points where contamination is likely, and it will put in place measures to limit contamination. It would make FDA oversight more comparable to poultry and meat monitoring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, experts say.
Most reputable food processors already comply with such rules, said Linda Harris, associate director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California, Davis. "For most people who are applying food safety principles to food safety processing, it’s not going to be a huge change,” she said.
Once the rules are released, there are some in Congress and in the industry who fear the looming post-election budget fights could mean the FDA won’t have the money to actually implement the law. Pew Health Group’s Food Safety Campaign estimates it will cost $200 million to apply the lawhand, I always look at food safety as the incredibly low-hanging fruit in terms of doing something positive," he said."
"Some families, though, are unsure that more government regulation is the answer. They include Jeff Allgood of Chubbuck, Idaho, whose 2-year-old son Kyle died in 2006 after drinking a homemade smoothie containing spinach tainted by E. coli. Allgood said he has come to believe that food producers need to regulate themselves.
"I look at the debt that our government’s incurring right now, and for them to hire a bunch of inspectors and more food police, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense right now," Allgood said.
Yet he and his wife, Robyn, helped push for the law’s passage, and relate their son’s story frequently. They tell people they have five children, "including Kyle." He would have been 9 in December, a big brother to two younger siblings born after his death.
"In a lot of ways, we’re still raising our son Kyle," Allgood said. "We think about what he would be doing. We still talk about him daily."
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