Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, she asserts that the latest E. coli outbreak traced to fresh produce from the Salinas Valley was preventable and predictable and that having a single federal agency in charge of food safety is part of the solution to preventing outbreaks in the future. She tells NPR:
“For anyone who tracks the arcane politics of food safety in the United States, this outbreak was entirely predictable. Since 1998, the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned producers of fresh fruit and vegetables about the dangers of E. coli 0157:H7 and the need for measures to keep potential sources of these bacteria well away from their crops.
In 2004, the FDA issued a plan for preventive steps that it fully expected vegetable producers to follow. But last year the agency complained that its long efforts to engage the lettuce industry “have not yet resulted in a comprehensive, collaborative plan to address the issue of E. coli 0157:H7.” The FDA then warned growers to get busy and fix the problem.
This August — too late to prevent the current outbreak — the agency extended this warning to spinach producers. The futility of the FDA’s increasingly urgent pleas reflects the huge gaps in the nation’s century-old and highly dysfunctional food safety system.”