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Lettuce recall doesn't hide progress on food safety, experts say

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A lot of progress has been achieved since the last reports of salmonella and E coli in 2007, say other experts. Farm groups, agricultural collectives, transportation firms, and processing plants have implemented voluntary regulations on cleanliness.

More progress could be on the way. A House bill passed in July calls on food processors to register with the government periodically, implement food safety plans, meet FDA performance standards, and verify that the food they import complies with US law. Known as the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a Senate version sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, and Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, was passed unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in November. The bill was scheduled to head to the floor of the Senate this summer, but has been delayed by health-care reform and now financial reform.

The bill “is just the nudge that is needed,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food and Safety Director for the Center For Science in the Public Interest. "It gives [the] FDA needed new authorities to manage food safety from farm to table, through improved standards and more frequent inspections,” she says.

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