"There's no good in having a system that takes you from the farm — halfway through the supply chain — and then another system that picks up from there all the way to the retail," said David Acheson, the FDA's associate commissioner for food protection. "It has to be, essentially, what we call an interoperable uniform system."
Dewaal, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, "Right now the technology exists, but it's not being used widely because companies aren't required to use them."
But many said Congress is at least partially to blame for the FDA's struggles. The FDA is responsible for making sure about 80 percent of the nation's food supply is safe, but the agency has said it doesn't have nearly enough money to do its job. On Monday, the administration upped its budget request for the FDA by $275 million for the upcoming fiscal year, with about $125 million of that money intended to go to food safety efforts.
"Congress is very angry at FDA for not doing better, but I think they share much of the blame because they've not been willing to give FDA the funding it needs to do its job well," Hubbard said.
At the FDA, commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach has said the FDA needs to do a better job of tracking its products and has announced a plan to place more FDA inspectors overseas. He admitted that the agency's use of paper records instead of electronic ones make it hard for the agency to do its job effectively.
"You need rapid tests," said Hubbard, the former FDA official. "You need more laboratory capacity and you need more inspectors to get out there and find the problem quickly, get to the source and stop it."
"But you also need prevention, you need rules in place that say how you can produce safe produce," he added.
The FDA said today that cases of salmonella from tainted tomatoes have now been reported in six new states: Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Tennessee and Vermont. Twenty-five people have been hospitalized, but no deaths are attributed to the outbreak.
ABC News' Tom Shine, Clayton Sandell, Brian Hartman and Randy Gyllenhaal contributed to this report.