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Congress moves forward to protect food supply

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Consumers Union Applauds Congress for Moving Forward to Protect Food Supply;
FDA Inspections and Oversight Essential to Package

Washington, DC— With hearings scheduled in both the U.S. House and Senate, Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, commends Congress for focusing on the serious shortcomings in the nation’s food safety system. The organization calls for strong, quick, and comprehensive action by Congress, including increasing the frequency of inspections and giving the Food and Drug Administration mandatory recall authority for tainted foods.
“FDA inspects US food processing facilities—the kind that bag spinach or make peanut butter—only once every five to ten years, and foreign facilities even less. In the last year we’ve seen problems not just in spinach and peanut butter, but canned chili, imported fish and even pet food. FDA needs a significantly increased budget and more staff to deal with these problems,” says Ami Gadhia, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Dingell is circulating draft legislation that would double the budget of FDA, and the Committee will hold a hearing on the matter tomorrow. “We strongly support Chairman Dingell’s budget boost for the FDA and other aspects of the draft bill, such as country-of-origin-labeling for produce, and labeling of meat, poultry and seafood that has been treated with carbon monoxide,” added Gadhia.
“We also hope that Chairman Dingell and his colleagues will consider further improvements to the bill. For instance, the draft bill requires domestic and foreign food processing facilities to be inspected every four years. We think FDA should inspect food processing facilities at least once a year to ensure food safety,” said Gadhia.
Consumers Union also supports the proposal to impose registration fees of $2000 per food processing facility. “Food processing is a $2.1 trillion industry. These fees, which would increase FDA’s food budget by $600 million, amount to three ten thousandths of a percent of the food industry’s value,” said Gadhia.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is also working on food safety legislation.
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Jennifer Fuson