A New Law to Fight the Cantaloupes of Death

Sure, today may be World Rabies Day, but that's not the only deadly disease you need to worry about in this dangerous time of ours: In case you haven't heard, now even cantaloupe can kill you. A bacteria called listeria contaminated cantaloupes in Colorado (say that three times fast), turning the delicious melons into orange orbs of death. The CDC says 13 people have died as a result of what is now considered the worst foodborne illness outbreak in a decade. (Two of those deaths occurred in Texas.)

So what's a person to do? Well, Hair Balls swore off fruit ages ago, so we'll just die of scurvy instead, but the rest of you can be somewhat reassured by the recent passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which will give the FDA the resources for more inspections, plus the teeth to bitch-slap the farmers/growers who don't follow the rules.

Sandy Eskin, Director of the Food Safety Campaign for the Pew Charitable Trusts, told us more about the new law, and how it might help curb future outbreaks. However, the FDA must first give Congress something to work with -- like how much money they'll need, and just how exactly things will work.

"What this ongoing outbreak demonstrates is the need to make sure that the FDA can finish its regs on produce safety," Eskin says. "...This is really just an illustration...of why it's so important that Congress fund FDA food safety."

Eskin says the new regs are an "essential government function," pointing out that if the government doesn't make sure our food is safe, who else is going to?

Once the specifics are worked out and FDA has the proper funding, Eskin says, it could take two or three years (or maybe more) to get all the mechanisms in place.

As for the current outbreak, the most susceptible folks are the elderly, children and anyone who's pregnant (the majority of whom are women). Since the contaminant is trapped in the rind of the cantaloupe, make sure you skin and slice that sucker as if your life depended on it -- because, in fact, it does.

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