After months of newspapers, blogs, and food safety experts raising flags about the dilapidated food safety system, cable news has piped into the food safety discussion more than usual in 2010.

Recent cable news coverage–on CNN, CBS, and ABC–has followed a series of high profile newspaper
articles on school lunch safety, ammoniated beef, airport food safety,
E. coli in tenderized steaks, and Russia’s refusal of U.S. chicken over chlorine concerns.

Despite the
uptick in media buzz, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety reform bill remains stalled
behind health care reform in the Senate. And, until recently (Monday night) the Obama Administration had yet to name a nominee to lead the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to regulate meat and poultry products, which account for 20 percent of the food supply.

Sunday night, ABC News covered the 1.2 million pound salami recall announced by FSIS late Friday. The nationwide recall was initiated after public health officials determined it may be linked to the ongoing Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 184 people in 38 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating the outbreak since July 2009–the agency found that of 39 people who became ill 51% of the patients recently had eaten salami.

The salami recall is only the most recent fuel to the fire generating media attention to food safety issues–and though salami is a USDA-regulated product, it appears that the ground pepper in the salami, an FDA-regulated product, might actually be the culprit.

Since Christmas Eve, the USDA’s food safety division has recalled millions of pounds of potentially contaminated meat.  In the past month, The FDA has also initiated its share of recalls, on a wide variety of foods–cheese logs, pine nuts, milk, caramel, hazelnuts, and pet food, to name but a few.

In the context of a seemingly constant barrage of recalls, CBS News ran a segment exploring America’s food safety system two weeks ago.

“Only 7 percent give the U.S. an A on ensuring the safety of our food supply,” according to a CBS poll.

“When it comes to agriculture, America is indeed the land of plenty. Foods raised here and imported from around the world provide greater abundance and choice than ever before,” said CBS’s Bill Whitaker. “But while our foods are bountiful, they’re also inconsistently regulated.”

Watch the segment here:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

CNN also took special notice of food safety issues and the then leaderless FSIS at the beginning of the month.

“Politicians in Washington still haven’t figured out that full food safety agenda for you,” noted Erica Hill, as CNN began the two minute segment focused on the need for greater regulation in the wake of a 248,000 pound nationwide tenderized steak recall linked to E. coli in late December.

“It could be a good year for food safety if President Obama and the Congress take new commitment to tightening regulation. They could start off with the agriculture food safety and inspection service. The service has been without a chief for more than a year,” said CNN reporter Louise Schiavone.

“Also high on the agenda, passage of food safety legislation designed to enhance the operation for the Food and Drug Administration, it’s been approved in the House with a version of it pending in the Senate,” added Schiavone.

Watch the full segment here: