Chairman Waxman’s Bill Likely Vehicle to Move in House of Representatives
United Fresh President Testifies on Key Food Safety Legislation

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel urged members of the House of Representatives today to clearly and unequivocally support science-based, commodity-specific standards in the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) called the legislative hearing to discuss specific aspects of the draft bill they will likely debate in committee and pass out to the full House of Representatives.  This is a crucial stage in the development of food safety legislation that will shape the final bill eventually passed by the Congress, and signed into law by President Obama, most likely this year.

After adoption of guiding principles for federal food safety oversight by the United Fresh Board of Directors in January 2007, the association has testified before Congress some 10 times, leading to today’s consideration of the specific Energy and Commerce committee bill that is likely to advance to full House consideration. 

“Over the past two years, we have been able to build the consensus in Congress that recognizes that fresh produce demands a commodity-specific approach – one size does not fit all,” Stenzel said.  “Every major piece of food safety legislation introduced by the many players in Congress incorporates these principles that we’ve fought for, and now we must ensure that the final bill that comes out of the Energy and Commerce Committee is clear in its support for this approach.”

Stenzel’s testimony addressed the draft legislation through the lens of United’s broad policy-guiding principles demanding a commodity-specific approach based on the best available science; consistent and equitable standards no matter where a produce commodity is grown domestically in the United States or imported into the country; and be federally mandated with sufficient federal oversight of compliance in order to be most credible to consumers.

Stenzel recommended in his testimony a number of areas where the draft bill needs to be strengthened in order to garner the industry’s support, including commodity-specific produce safety standards, traceability requirements, fair treatment of domestic and imported foods, categorization of fresh processing facilities for FDA inspection, geographical quarantine authority, country-of-origin labeling, and facility registration fees.

“It is time to end the fears of food safety that have no place in the fresh produce department,” Stenzel said. “Our industry produces extraordinarily safe foods every day around the world to provide American consumers the most abundant array of the healthiest fresh fruits and vegetables they need to improve their health.  But because science tells us there is no such thing as zero risk, government must also be able to assure the public that even if something does go horribly wrong in an isolated case, consumers can continue to have confidence in fresh produce.  We must all be able to trust the overall system of government oversight and industry responsibility, working together to produce the safest possible supply of fresh, healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables.”


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