(May 16, 2007)

FDA food safety plan inadequate

From Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration came up with a plan earlier this year for tough regulations on handling fresh produce but its parent agency gave the proposal a cold reception, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site on Wednesday.

Officials of the Department of Health and Human Services rejected the FDA plan presented at a meeting in February after a series of health scares, the Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The FDA said at the meeting its current approach was failing to stop an increase in food-borne illnesses and that its plan could help cut produce-related outbreaks in half, the paper said.

The FDA and HHS could not immediately be reached for comment.

An HHS spokeswoman told the Journal the February meeting was a background session, with the FDA presenting "a wide variety of options available to us in our efforts to improve food safety" and did not require a policy or regulatory decision.

The HHS meeting came after an E.coli outbreak in bagged spinach in September, the paper said. That was followed by two more E.coli outbreaks involving people who ate at some of Yum Brands Inc.'s Taco Bell restaurants and Taco John's International restaurants, it said.

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