The New York Times is editorializing about serious problems in food-safety regulation reported by USA Today:
Food safety, like toy safety, is part of a growing national concern that government agencies that are supposed to protect consumers have been whittled down to incompetence. The Bush administration insists it is focusing on import safety — finally. Congress must keep pressing for a complete overhaul of the consumer protection system. Each day there is news of another dangerous hole in the consumer safety net.
USA Today pointed out a particularly glaring problem last week. The private laboratories that test foods from companies on the government's "import alert list" cannot automatically report tainted food to the Food and Drug Administration. Instead, they must give their reports to the importer who is paying for the test. If a shipment fails one laboratory's test, some importers have switched to a less-reputable laboratory to get the tainted foodstuff through. That cannot be allowed. When labs find a batch of food with too much pesticide or salmonella or worse, they should be required to alert the F.D.A., not hope the companies will come clean for them.
The F.D.A. needs to follow through on promises to determine which companies abroad are more trustworthy and which require closer scrutiny. One quick solution would be to immediately require accreditation of private laboratories through the International Standards Organization. The best labs would welcome that certification.
This is a no brainer. There is no reason to have a system like that and not to mention the chaos that could be caused by unscrupulous labs and exporter/importers.