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CU calls for stronger FDA to protect food imports

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Consumers Union Calls For Stronger FDA to Protect Food Imports;
Food and Drug Import Safety Act Would Fix Lax Oversight

Washington, DC— Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly supports efforts to strengthen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority over food imports. Today, the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health is holding a hearing on the food import issue, and in a letter to Committee members, CU noted its backing of H.R. 3610, the Food and Drug Import Safety Act of 2007.
“In recent years, we have seen a slide towards lax oversight and neglect of safety of imported products at the Food and Drug Administration,” said Jean Halloran, CU’s Director, Food Policy Initiatives, in the letter. “The provisions contained in H.R. 3610 will go a long way towards assuring imported food safety.”
The bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, and cosponsored by Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, calls for user fees to help fund increased border inspections, a mandatory certification system for facilities exporting food to the U.S., and limits on the number of ports that imported food can enter to those with an FDA laboratory.
The House bill also gives the FDA mandatory recall authority, something CU has championed as long overdue. In a national Consumers Union poll in 2004, 97 percent of respondents agreed that the government should have mandatory recall authority for contaminated meat. Mandatory recall authority is lacking for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA.
“The safety of our nation’s food is only as strong as our weakest link—the FDA. Unfortunately, the FDA is inspecting less than one percent of the food entering this country and that is simply not good enough,” continued Halloran.
Recent problems with pet and animal feed ingredients from China and banned chemicals found in Chinese farmed fish have highlighted the need for increased oversight over food imports. In addition to its support for H.R. 3610, Consumers Union has called for increasing safety inspections of domestic food production and helping to bring more coordination to a federal food safety system that currently involves 15 agencies.
To see a copy of the letter of support sent to the Energy and Commerce Committee members, click here.
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Jennifer Fuson, 202-462-6262