Scary news for salad eaters this week:  organic baby spinach from California was recalled in 16 states because of Salmonella contamination.

It was because of these kinds of pathogens infiltrating our food supply – and in particular two outbreaks associated with spinach and peanut butter that claimed several lives – that the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2010.  In fact, one of the critical requirements of the bill was that FDA should for the first time issue on-farm regulations designed to prevent pathogens in leafy greens such as spinach.

Two years after its passage, however, the food safety bill has yet to go into effect.  Why the hold up?  Turns out it’s, well, stuck.

After the bill was signed into law the FDA diligently developed the new rules for safer leafy greens and other critical regulations as instructed by the law.  Then, as is standard for new regulations, they were sent over to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) which ensures the proper cost benefit analysis is done before the rules are made public.

Unfortunately, that is now where the new food safety regulations sit.  They have been there for five months, even though OMB review is supposed to take no more than three.  OMB has given no indication of what its problems are with the regulations, nor when it will release them for public comment.

Consumers Union believes the new regulations would go a long way towards preventing bacterial contamination outbreaks like the one just announced in spinach – but they can’t offer any protection until they’re released, opened for public comment, finalized and implemented.

Luckily there have been no illnesses reported in association with this spinach recall, according to the FDA.  Hopefully that will continue to be the case.  However, this is a warning that the new food safety regulations are very much still needed, and shouldn’t continue to sit behind OMB’s closed doors.