05/19/2012 - When President Barack Obama last year signed a bill hailed as a milestone in food safety, he stood at an exceedingly rare intersection where persuasive majorities of businesses, policymakers and consumers wanted the same thing.
Pretty much everyone who helped mold the Food Safety Modernization Act, including food companies, regulators, consumer groups and even members of both political parties, if you can imagine such a thing, was on board with the complicated plan to achieve one goal: Making sure the food you eat doesn’t make you sick or dead.
When one in six Americans gets sick and 3,000 die each year from food poisoning, the safety of what we put into our mouths is a widely shared concern, especially when such illnesses are preventable.
So the bill was signed in January 2011 and the most significant changes to food law since 1938 were under way. Safety advocates rejoiced, companies began to prepare and politicians promised that our food would be safer than ever. It was as if our days of worrying about what exactly was in our spinach, peanuts and eggs were over. And all those imported foods from other countries? Forget about it; supplier verification and prevention controls were coming to save the day.
Then process took its seat on the party bus and the speedometer slowed considerably.
But a big portion of the new rules was supposed to have been released in January so the public, as well as food companies, could begin dissecting them before they take effect. Industry leaders, still waiting for that release, are complaining openly to the White House about the delay.
“There’s no explanation for the hold-up,” said Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Health Group, in the Washington Post earlier this month. “Until this new package of safeguards is put into place, all the promise of the new food-safety law will not be met.”
Read the full editorial, Landmark Food Law in Political Limbo?, on the Battle Creek Enquirer's website.