... For the past three years, the Government Accountability Office has put food safety on its list of "high-risk challenges" facing Congress and the president. The GAO warned in November that the government's ability to safeguard the nation's food supply and respond quickly to outbreaks of food-borne illness is hindered by a fragmented, poorly coordinated system involving 15 federal agencies administering at least 30 laws.

... The circumstances behind the latest salmonella outbreak should be more than enough to galvanize Congress and the president into action.

... They can further strengthen the food-safety system by creating national standards for fresh produce to replace the patchwork of state and industry standards around the country ... They can improve coordination among federal and state regulators. They can require food makers to submit their own safety plans. And they can mandate that imported food meet FDA standards.

There is bipartisan support in Congress for these and other ways to make America's food supply safer. Leaders need to make some room for this critical issue on their full plate of responsibilities.