Food safety legislation will be priority in 2009
27, 2008 10:04 AM, By Ron Smith
Source of Article: http://southwestfarmpress.com/news/1008-food-safety/
Food safety legislation is coming, and the agricultural industry must watch for it and be involved in shaping it. Otherwise, agriculture could be over-regulated with little improvement for consumers, says Cathleen Enright, Western Growers Association.
who moderated a food safety panel at the recent Texas Produce Convention in
“All these issues have helped
shape the direction
said consumer groups are demanding action from
“Also, agencies have been gutted of personnel and in FDA the drug side is always the higher priority and will always out-compete food for time and resources.”
Enright said the Bush administration response to food safety last year “overwhelmed Congress. It covered the basics of prevention, intervention and response — and the FDA asked for more regulator authority.”
She said Congress found “a lack of specifics in the administration’s plan. And there was no new money for programs.”
Currently, 30 or more bills in various stages of development in Congress propose changes to food safety programs. Changes include:
– Recognition of food safety responsibilities.
– Improved oversight and certification with recall authority.
– Standards and practices for producers, processors and retailers.
– Traceability systems (electronic).
– Improved ability to sample and detect.
Enright said some bills have been revamped. One in particular “was horrible for the industry. It’s being reworked.”
She said funding remains an issue. “As much as $1 billion is needed to get food safety on track. The administration proposal is for $42 million to $49 million.”
Enright said mandatory recall authority “is coming. That’s not as scary as it sounds and will be used only if voluntary recall doesn’t work.” Authorizing export certificates is another possibility. “Traceability is coming, too,” she said.
Enright said action on these or other bills likely will not occur until 2009. “Food safety will be a priority for the next Congress.” She said funding questions remain. “We need fixes but where will the money come from?”
She also said the industry is in a good position to shape policy. “The industry has gained credibility over the last nine months. Congress is listening and that will help us get better legislation.”
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