Bill bids to strengthen
‘dangerous’ US food safety regime
of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/Bill-bids-to-strengthen-dangerous-US-food-safety-regime
By Rory Harrington, 29-May-2009
New legislation designed to strengthen
the “dangerous” US food safety system as well as simplify its
complex food supply chain has been tabled by key political figures from the
House of Representatives.
The Food Safety
Enhancement Act of 2009 would see inspections of food plants stepped up,
oblige manufacturers to take more responsibility for the prevention of
food-borne illnesses and hand the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
further punitive powers. The legislation, proposed by Energy and Commerce
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep John D Dingell
(D-Mich.), would give the FDA
the authority to recall contaminated food products, the capacity to
quarantine food suspected of being tainted and added clout to impose
criminal and civil sanctions on transgressors.
Rep. Waxman said: "The current state of our food safety
system is dangerous not just for the American public, but also for the food
industry itself. This bill recognizes that the hallmark of strong food
safety legislation must be a shared responsibility for food safety oversight
between FDA and industry. This legislation will go a long way toward
restoring Americans' confidence in our food supply."
Under the proposals, manufacturers, food handlers and growers would
be required to identify contamination risks, record the measures taken to
halt them and submit records for federal scrutiny. Private laboratories
used by food producers would also be compelled to report the detection of
pathogens to the government.
A legislative hearing to discuss the measures contained in the bill
has been scheduled for June 3.
Industry body’s fee concerns
The bill has been generally welcomed with Erik Olson, director of
food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts, describing
it as a major step forward.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said it supported the “broad
goals” of the bill. However, the food industry body has voiced concerns
that the $1,000 annual registration fee that all food facilities would have
to pay to fund the increased FDA oversight will be passed on to consumers
in the form higher food prices “at a time when they can least afford
GMA President and CEO Pamela Bailey said: “Like many consumer
groups, we are concerned about the inherent conflict of interest created by
asking industry to fund government inspections.”
The bill is being seen as bid to shore up failing confidence in the
country’s food safety regime, and follows a number of high-profile
contamination incidents in the US over the past few years, including E.coli
in spinach, salmonella
in peppers and the recent outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter.
Earlier this week, newly appointed FDA commissioner Dr Margaret
Hamburg admitted the nationwide peanut contamination incident represented a
failure on the part of the agency.