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U.S. Food Safety: A Shopping List of Solutions
Date:1/16/2008

Proposals include creating 'superagency,' boosting FDA funding and encouraging global alliances

Third of three parts

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- With every new recall of yet another staple of the American diet, demands for a solution to the food safety problem are becoming more strident.

The proposals for fixes range from reconstructing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into a more powerful policing agency to reshaping the food industry so it can better monitor itself.

All ideas seek to modernize a system that seems to have become hopelessly outdated.

"Food is not produced, processed or distributed the way it was 20 to 30 years ago," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, a former New York City health commissioner who now heads the department of preventive medicine and community health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City. "Farming is now a major agribusiness, and it introduces a variety of problems that didn't exist before. It's much more complicated and can't be addressed by regulations that were written 30 years ago."

Further straining efforts to safeguard U.S. consumers is the nation's growing appetite for imported foods. Americans now consume $70 billion worth of foods from abroad, up from $36 billion just a decade ago.

The current hodgepodge of food regulations were simply adopted as the need arose, experts say.

"You have a system that developed organically from the turn of the [20th] century," explained Jessica Milano, who wrote a report on food safety, Spoiled: Keeping Tainted Food Off America's Tables, that was published in September by the nonprofit Progressive Policy Institute. "As economies developed with more commercial food manufacturers and multi-ingredient products, you have some overlaps and redundancies."

Those overlaps and redundancies have left regulators and producers u
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