09/08/2012 - "No one expects to bite into fresh fruit and become deathly ill. Yet, that's what happened to at least 178 people in 21 states, who consumed cantaloupe contaminated with salmonella. This deadly outbreak — two have died — is particularly poignant a year after the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness since 1924 and because of legislation in limbo drafted to avert such tragedies.
In an email interview, Orlando Sentinel Editorial Writer Darryl E. Owens asked Sandy Eskin, project director of the Food Safety Campaign with the Pew Health Group, about the measure's potential impact.
Q: Wasn't last year's Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act created to prevent these kinds of food borne outbreaks?
A: Yes. This landmark legislation, the first major overhaul of FDA's food safety law since the Great Depression, shifts the focus from reacting to food safety problems to preventing them. In terms of produce, like cantaloupe, it requires FDA to establish safety standards for growing and harvesting that would prevent contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Q: What's the holdup?
A: Short answer: The rules are being held up at the White House. In order to implement the new law, the FDA must propose and then finalize new safeguards that would spell out what growers should do to prevent safety problems. In December, FDA sent its draft rules to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which has delayed them for more than eight months. The new law required these proposed rules to be published by Jan. 4."
Read the full interview, 'Front and Center: Keeping an Eye on Food Supply,' on the Orlando Sentinel's website.