Tainted Tomatoes? Enough is Enough

Americans have suffered and died from tainted spinach, hamburger and peanut butter. Now, salmonella-laced tomatoes are sending others to the hospital in gut-wrenching pain. How did grocery shopping become a game of Russian roulette?

It's time that Congress get serious about implementing real food safety reforms and pass comprehensive legislation now.

In the case of the tainted tomatoes, the FDA has spent weeks trying to figure out where the contaminated produce came from. Fed Ex can track every package -- why don't we track our food? Since 2004 the FDA has lost nearly a third of its food safety and field staffers. And as more food comes from China, Mexico and elsewhere, less than 1 percent of imports are inspected.

Congress is writing bills right now to fix our broken food safety laws, but they need to hear from you -- the powerful industry lobby is already lining up to oppose significant reforms. Tell your lawmakers to improve our antiquated food safety laws now!

Dear [Decision Maker],

With the recent outbreak of salmonella in our tomatoes now added to the long list of unsafe and deadly food recalls in our nation, I urge you to get serious about implementing real food safety reforms and pass comprehensive legislation now.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the safety of much of the food we eat -- both food imported from countries like China, as well as food produced here in the U.S. But the FDA is failing to protect consumers, and needs more money and authority to get the job done.

In the recent tomato outbreak, the FDA could not tell the public where the salmonella contamination came from, nor could it trace back tomatoes to the source. We need a traceability system for high-risk produce such as tomatoes and leafy greens. We also need production and handling standards for produce.

As the House and the Senate are considering fixes to our broken food safety system, I urge you to make sure that the fixes are as strong as possible. We shouldn't be afraid that the food we buy each day may sicken or even kill us.

Any food safety legislation that Congress passes should contain the following provisions:

-- Traceability system for high-risk produce and production and handling standards.

-- Sufficient funding so the FDA can do its job and fulfill its safety mission. Since 2004 the agency has lost nearly a third of its food safety and field staffers, and many more are expected to retire soon.

-- More inspections of food imports. Currently less than 1 percent of food is inspected by the FDA, that's clearly not enough.

-- Regular, mandatory FDA inspection of all food production facilities, both foreign and domestic. Mandatory certification by independent certifiers that processing facilities are following FDA-approved safe handling procedures.

-- Labeling of new and controversial food technologies on our shelves, such as cloned food, genetically engineered food and nanotech ingredients. Consumers should be allowed to make informed choices when they're buying food for their families.

-- Mandatory recall authority for FDA and mandatory identification of outlets that sell recalled food. There is no federal requirement to publicize the names of grocery stores, restaurants, and schools that might be selling or using recalled food, leaving consumers at a loss to protect themselves.

The recent salmonella outbreak in tomatoes has put at least 43 people in the hospital, and the cases are still growing.

Mealtime should not be a game of chance. Please enact strong food safety legislation as soon as possible that includes the protections outlined above. Thank you.


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