To judge by the number of product recalls - hundreds of them - involving the Peanut Corp. of America, it seems obvious that the company was a major player in the food industry. Yet, until the firm was pinpointed as the source of contaminated products that sickened hundreds of people, killing some, PCA's plant in Blakely, Ga., had not been visited by federal inspectors since 2001. Its facility in Plainview, Texas, was never inspected after it opened in 2005 - and didn't even have a state food manufacturing license.
Obviously, the federal government's food safety efforts failed miserably in regard to PCA. Many Americans now must wonder how safe their food really is. The peanut scandal has given them little reassurance.
It has been obvious for many years that federal regulation in regard to food, from farm to factory, leaves much to be desired. Yet the gigantic federal bureaucracy has resisted change. Often it has been aided by lobbyists with powerful friends in Congress.
The PCA fiasco - and it is that - should refocus the attention of Congress on food safety. Simple measures such as combining all federal food safety enforcement under a single agency would help. So would holding federal officials accountable. If lawmakers do not make the issue a priority this year, their constituents should be furious - and should remember their anger at election time.