From The Hartford (Conn.) Courant — Originally published Wednesday, Feb. 18

... Salmonella in [Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart] Parnell's peanut products is blamed for sickening 600 people around the country and killing nine. E-mails obtained by congressional investigators show Mr. Parnell knew the products were tainted and ordered them shipped anyway. They also chronicle his frustration with test results that were "costing us huge $$$$$$."

Mr. Parnell is a villain. But his case shouldn't distract from the larger problem: a federal regulatory system that is hamstrung. Problems with the food safety system have been chronicled for years.

... The federal Food and Drug Administration is charged with safeguarding 80 percent of the nation's food supply — fresh fruits, vegetables, bulk ingredients and many grocery items. Yet its functions are inconsistent, understaffed, uncoordinated and toothless.

The agency largely relies on producers to police themselves. Unless the tainted product is infant formula, the FDA can't even order a recall. And when a company agrees to a voluntary recall, regulators lack authority to track how promptly or thoroughly it was done.

... U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-Conn.] is reintroducing a plan to restructure the FDA and give responsibility for food safety to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ms. DeLauro's proposal would also give federal regulators authority to conduct regular inspections, order recalls, seize contaminated products and impose fines. It would also set clear standards for preventing contamination. Such reforms are long overdue.

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