Obama’s call for FDA review welcomed
Source of Article: http://thepacker.com/icms/_dtaa2/content/wrapper.asp?alink=2009-14307-650.asp&stype=topstory&fb=
By Tom Karst
(Feb. 6, 2:30 p.m.)
President Barack Obama’s call for a full review of the Food and Drug
Administration’s food safety oversight responsibilities was welcomed by
produce industry lobbyists in early February.
In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that aired Feb. 2, Obama said the
agency has failed to meet expectations in recent foodborne
“At bare minimum, we should be able to count on our government keeping our
kids safe when they eat peanut butter,” he said in the interview.
Through early February, more than 500 people have been sickened and eight
people have died after they ate peanut butter contaminated with salmonella.
The peanut butter has been traced to a plant in Georgia
operated by Peanut Corp. of America,
“This outbreak with peanut butter has caught the attention of a lot of people
in the Congress and administration,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice
president of public policy for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce
He said policy makers need to understand why the system continues to fail and
“We welcome such a review, as we believe FDA needs additional resources to
carry out its responsibilities,” added Kathy Means, vice president of
government relations and public affairs for the Newark, Del.-based Produce
Specifically, Means said in an e-mail that PMA would like FDA to exercise
greater oversight in produce safety, including mandatory recall authority and
mandatory risk- and science-based food safety programs. Those programs, she
said, should apply regardless of product origin.
Guenther noted Obama’s call to review the role and response of the federal
government’s role in food safety actually began with the events of about two
years ago. Various foodborne outbreaks have
increased scrutiny for both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
“Every time this happens, this has become a high-profile issue, and we have
to go find an effective way to make sure that our food is safe and continues
to be safe ... whether it is fresh produce, peanut butter or food they get
for their pets.”
Despite Obama’s forceful call for a comprehensive review of FDA, Guenther
said he doesn’t see any evidence Congress will be able to take up serious
food safety reform legislation until the latter half of the year.
However, the longer the peanut butter stays in the news, the discussions figure
“The likelihood of Congress acting continues to be greater every day,” he
Guenther said the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry had
a food safety oversight hearing Feb. 5, with another hearing set for Feb. 11
by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“I think we will see more legislation popping up in the next several weeks,”