FDA Inaction to Blame for Salmonella Outbreak

Statement of CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein

June 10, 2008

The Food and Drug Administration deserves any rotten tomatoes thrown its way in the wake of this latest outbreak.

Since 2006, CSPI has been urging FDA to require all farms that feed the American public to have written food safety plans, but the FDA has not done that. Instead, the agency and the Bush Administration rely on voluntary, and obviously ineffective, industry programs. The result is yet another produce outbreak, sickening consumers and dealing another setback to another important industry, which includes many growers who have implemented food safety measures.

Consumers can't afford to risk their health by eating tainted produce, and they can't afford the blow to their wallets when FDA tells them to throw out what may actually be safe food because the agency can't figure out the precise source of the contamination.

Without food safety plans, on-farm inspections, and effective traceback systems, all consumers can do is cross their fingers and hope that the food they eat is safe. Even now, with 145 people in 16 states sick, FDA can't tell consumers whether the contaminated tomatoes were domestically produced or imported. The agency needs to overhaul its food safety system, and it needs to do it now.

Since 1990, more than 3,000 Americans have gotten sick from tomatoes contaminated in 24 known outbreaks. And those numbers don't take into account what must be countless unidentified tomato-related outbreaks. How many more consumers have to get sick before FDA gets serious about produce safety?


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