begins food safety deliberations
of Article: http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0609/060309cdam1.htm
By Kasie Hunt CongressDaily
Lawmakers will begin work on an overhaul of the country's food
safety system Wednesday as the House Energy and Commerce Committee hears
from health officials about a draft version of legislation.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is slated to testify, along
with representatives from consumer groups and industry. Lawmakers say they
are particularly concerned because of a recent spate of food contamination
problems that led to illnesses and deaths, including E.coli in spinach,
tainted peppers and salmonella traced to peanuts.
"Redoing the inspections and food safety system is
essential. It's got to be a public-private partnership," HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius told the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee
Tuesday. "Whether or not it's a stand-alone agency or in the FDA I
think is almost secondary to what the system needs to look at."
The draft, circulated late last month by committee Democrats,
is based on the food safety portion of broader legislation that addresses
drug and medical device safety. The bill would require food companies to
pay a $1,000 annual registration fee to help offset the costs of increased
inspections, which would range in frequency from every six months for
high-risk products and to every three years for some less risky items.
The draft was introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry
Waxman, D-Calif., and Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan; Oversight
and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak of Michigan; Health
Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, and Reps. Diana DeGette
of Colorado and Betty Sutton of Ohio.
Food industry interests have criticized the legislation,
saying the recession makes the timing inappropriate. Groups argued the
registration fees will create a conflict of interest because they will be
funding the inspections.