After the peanut recall, the spinach
recall and the swine flu, it looks as if members of Congress are finally
serious about overhauling the FDA. The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009,
introduced by powerful Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell, would fix many
of the problems that have plagued the agency for the past eight years.
Among other things, the bill would give the FDA more quarantine power to
prevent food from traveling across geographic areas, a problem in the peanut
butter salmonella scare. Another problem that the peanut butter scare
highlighted was the fact that many food facilities do not keep track of where
their supply is coming from. The new law would require every organization in
the food supply chain to maintain complete origin and distribution records.
Other portions of the bill have to do with increasing safety requirements on
infant formula -- an obvious response to the China melamine scandal, when the
initially ruled that trace amounts of the toxic substance were safe. The
bill also gives the agency more power to subpoena records. Most importantly,
it would increase the number of inspectors looking into the safety of food.
The Peanut Corporation of America hadn't been inspected in over five years.
The bill is currently in its infancy and there is a chance it won't make it
out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But it has the support of
some powerful lobbies such as the Grocery Manufacturer's Association. The
White House has remained mum, though Obama has previously called for a
"complete review" and reform of the FDA.