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Watch What You Eat: Guide to Food Safety

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Problem #4: Nobody's in Charge

Responsibility for food safety is spread across the FDA, the USDA, the CDC, and state and local health departments. "The system is uncoordinated," says Waldrop. That makes finding the source of food poisoning difficult. For example, the salmonella outbreak in the summer of 2008 was first thought to be caused by tomatoes. Restaurants stopped serving them, and many people were afraid to eat them. By the time peppers were identified as the real culprit, one-third of Americans never got the message, according to a survey by the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University.

The Safety Solution: The Food Safety Modernization Act would create a separate agency that would have oversight of food safety. President Obama has signaled his support for a more streamlined approach, as have a number of other lawmakers. "For the first time in a long time, there are food-safety bills in both the House and Senate," says Waldrop. "There's finally real commitment and opportunity to get something done."

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