Growing popularity of fresh produce items such as bagged salads and baby carrots prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 to reconsider old regulations and draft new guidelines for safe handling of the products, the newspaper said. However, budget cuts and competing priorities at the FDA caused the proposed changes to languish, the Times reported.
"I think it's fairly clear that something needs to change," said Dr. David Acheson, the chief medical officer for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Acheson said changes would likely include new regulations for produce.
Some Democratic members of Congress have long been pressing for food safety reforms. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has repeatedly called for merging the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture into one agency.
"The food safety process is collapsing," she told the Times.