Reacting to recent news of illnesses caused by celery and cheese, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture budgets, urged Congress to pass pending food safety legislation.
“Food safety is literally a matter of life and death–five people have died as a result of eating food items that are supposed to be safe,” said DeLauro in a statement Friday, referring to contaminated celery.  “It is imperative that we improve our outdated and inefficient system, and better protect American consumers.”

DeLauro’s comments were specific to two outbreaks: SanGar Fresh Cut Produce of San Antonio, TX, celery, which has been linked to a Listeria outbreak responsible for sickening 10 people, including some fatally, and Bravo

Farms Dutch Style Gouda raw milk cheese, sold or served at Costco Warehouses, which has been preliminarily linked to an outbreak of E. coli

O157:H7 that has caused 25 illnesses in 5 southwestern states.

“This is unacceptable, and that is why it is critical that Congress pass food safety legislation that will help prevent food-borne illness outbreaks, especially ones associated with high-risk foods,” said DeLauro, who has repeatedly called for more stringent food safety regulations.

“Furthermore, legislation should not create loopholes in our food safety system that would weaken current law,” she said.

DeLauro was a prominent force behind the bipartisan food safety bill that passed the House in July 2009. The Senate version has been stalled for months but is expected to be debated on the floor in mid-November.