The FDA has no specific criteria for preventing outbreaks, and experts say it doesn’t have the resources to draft such regulations.

A well done article by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, LA Times Staff Writer – important excerpts:

Recurring outbreaks of food-borne illness from contaminated produce are “unacceptable” in today’s society, the government says. But when it comes to preventing new occurrences, the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t done much of the basic research that would let it write regulations to fix the problem.

“We’ve got some of the knowledge, and industry can start acting on what they know, but in order for the FDA to provide leadership, they really need to invest in research,” said Taylor, who also previously served as an FDA deputy commissioner and is now an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“The idea is that somehow all the stakeholders will get together and in the absence of science and data arrive at some kind of reasonable consensus,” said Trevor Suslow, an agricultural extension agent at UC Davis. “It won’t happen if they wait for the science. They have to pick a starting point and go forward.”

Consumer groups are concerned that the lack of scientific research will lead to more delays in produce safety rules. “I don’t want to see this tied up for another couple of years while they investigate all the science,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, the director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The incoming Democratic chairwoman of the House committee that oversees FDA funding said she was baffled that the agency had not asked congressional budget writers for more money for food safety. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), said she planned to make food safety the topic of her first hearing next year.

“We have to find out where we are falling down here,” said DeLauro. “Is it resources, is it management, is it a combination of the two? “We have to be able to prevent these outbreaks,” she added, “and not just have a good response when they occur.”