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Deadly cantaloupe and deadly congressional decisions

September 29, 2011 | 11:14 am

Cantaloupe

After years of food-safety bills that died in Congress, the country was finally on its way to protecting the public's health with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Consumer groups liked it. The food industry liked it. It would have raised safety standards, increased oversight of foreign food producers and intensified food inspection domestically.

Then congressional Republicans moved in with their machetes and slashed funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to carry out the new law. The irony here is that they weren't saving taxpayers a dime. The money would have come from fees on food producers. Politicians might want to call that a job killer, except the food industry supported the fees as a way to ensure public safety, restore the industry's reputation and avoid costly disease outbreaks and the attendant lawsuits and sales drop-offs.

Fast forward a few weeks to the killer cantaloupes, listeria-tainted melons from a producer in Colorado that have killed 13 people and sickened 72 so far  -- the most serious outbreak of food-borne illness in 13 years, and that's saying something. The numbers are expected to grow. Meanwhile, other cantaloupe growers are suffering because consumers are shunning the fruit.

An explanation should be forthcoming about how situations like these qualify as a job saver.

ALSO:

The death penalty for food crimes?

Food poisoning: America's homegrown threat

Food safety: Should canned foods come with a warning label?

--Karin Klein

Photo: Federal and state officials have isolated a deadly outbreak of listeria to one cantaloupe farm near Holly, Colo. They have ordered a recall of 300,000 cases of melons grown on the Jensen Farms. Credit: Ed Andrieski / Associated Press

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