Don’t wait for fall to act on food safety, says CU

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By staff reporter, 17-Jul-2009

Every day that Congress delays in passing the Food Safety Enhancement Act puts more lives at risk, Consumers Union is claiming – and had the provisions been in place this year’s ‘deadly peanut debacle’ may never have happened.

The new food safety recommendations were announced by the White House last week, and include a number of provisions on which the CU has lobbied for some time.

These include facilities have written food safety plans, giving FDA authority to recall contaminated products, and requiring the agency to inspect high risk facilities at least once a year.

The organisation’s director of food policy initiatives, Jean Halloran, says that if high risk processors had already been required to test for contaminants and tell the FDA when they are identified in finished foods, the “deadly peanut debacle” that struck the US this year could have been avoided.

The CU is pushing for the FSEA to be passed by Congress promptly – before the August recess. “This is a strong bill that can only be weakened by delay, and every day without action means more lives are needlessly lost due to food contamination,” Halloran said.

Every year, some 76 million people are sickened by contaminated food, and 5000 die.

The CU maintains that recent food safety outbreaks – spanning produce such as spinach, peppers, pistachios and cookie dough – “are not random, unpreventable occurrences, but are due to widespread problems with our food safety system”.

Yesterday the House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on congressional efforts to address food safety.

Threat to small farms?

There have been some concerns that stringent food safety measures could have a catastrophic affect on small farms and organic growers – especially provisions for on-farm standards.

The CU argues that the Act takes on board the impact on small-scale operations.

However Halloran says the requirements for farms are not as stringent for farmers as they are for food processors. For instance, it does not lay out requirements for FDA inspection of farms.


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