FDA seeks more regulatory authority

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, appeared before the Senate's committee on health, education, labor and pensions on Oct. 22 to discuss reforming the food safety system, reports Food Business News. Her appearance was in sync with the House of Representative's "Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009" and the U.S. Senate's "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act" heading to conference.

Dr. Hamburg said areas of the bills need improvement. "For example, S. 510 does not provide FDA with explicit authority to access food records during routine inspections, one of the key authorities identified by the (President's Food Safety) Working Group," she said. "Routine records access is a critical component of a food safety regulatory framework and is one of the most significant gaps in FDA's existing authority. Although FDA. Has routine records access for certain other FDA-regulated products, and USDA has routine records access for USDA-regulated products, FDA does not have explicit authority for routine access to records for the vast majority of foods under its jurisdiction. This authority is essential to enable FDA. To identify problems and require corrections before people become ill."

She also wants to include information sharing."Enhancing FDA's information sharing authority is a critical element of an integrated federal/state system and is also essential for effective public health communications with FDA's international regulatory partners," she said.  

"This is a historic moment for food safety in the U.S. - a moment for FDA. And its sister agencies in the federal government to rise to the challenges of the 21st century," she said. "Success means fewer hospitalizations and deaths, fewer economically devastating recalls, and greater health for the American people."