The Food and Drug Administration is recalling cantaloupes grown in southern Indiana that may have been a source of a salmonella outbreak that has led to two deaths in Kentucky and sent 62 people to hospitals. When peanut products were contaminated in early 2009, one father fretted about his young daughter eating a peanut butter sandwich.
That father was President Obama. In his weekly radio address March 14, 2009, he also declared, There are certain things only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and dont cause us harm. In 2011, the president signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the most ambitious overhaul of the nations food safety system since the 1930s, which passed with broad bipartisan support and industry backing.
And therein lies a puzzle. The Food and Drug Administration drafted regulations to implement the law and sent them to the Office of Management and Budget for review in November and December. Broadly, the new law will shift the emphasis to prevention, rather than reacting after people get sick.
The food safety rules have been bottled up for nearly nine months. The budget office said it is working hard and the rules are complex.
The cantaloupe outbreak is just one more reminder of why the government should delay no longer. Food-borne illness is a major public-health threat, one appropriate for government activism.
Food safety should not fall victim to a political calendar. Obama signed the food safety law 20 months ago.
The more time is wasted now, the longer parents will have to worry about those peanut butter sandwiches.