In light of E. coli outbreaks traced to lettuce (Taco John’s E. coli outbreak and Taco Bell E. coli outbreak) and spinach in late 2006, the Government Accountability Office listed food safety as a high risk area that needs further attention in a new report that was released this week. The GAO issued a press release after the report was presented at a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill with leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Oversight and Government Reform committees. In the press release, the GAO states that:
David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States and the head of GAO, announced that sufficient progress has been made to remove two items from the list: the U.S. Postal Service’s transformation efforts and long-term outlook, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s single-family mortgage insurance and rental housing assistance programs. At the same time, he said federal oversight of food safety, protection of technologies critical to national security, and transportation financing and capacity have been added to the High Risk List.
An article in today’s Baltimore Sun addressed the food safety issues highlighted in the GAO report:
The scares intensified public concern for the safety of the country’s food supply, which former government officials say has been jeopardized by years of budget cuts to federal inspection programs.
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, expressed hope that the new report would encourage Congress to reverse the cuts and put all the agencies responsible for food safety into one department.
"These programs are in critical condition," she said.