Needles in a haystack

March 6, 2009

Designed to prevent tainted food such as the contaminated peanut butter that killed nine people, a bill was introduced in the Senate this week by Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), that would give the FDA new power to recall products, require food-safety plans from manufacturers and impose regulations on fruits and vegetables most at risk of causing illness, reports Bloomberg. The Senate bill would require food manufacturers to file periodic safety plans with the FDA detailing contamination risks and methods used to avoid them, or a risk-based approach to inspections.

In a “philosophical shift,” foodmakers support the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, said Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs for the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The companies want government to help prevent contamination in addition to detecting it. “We’re living in a world with global supply chains and tens of thousands of food products and hundreds of thousands of food ingredients,” Faber said. “These reforms would reduce the number of needles getting into the haystack.”

The GMA prefers the Durbin-Gregg proposal over one sponsored by Rosa LeLauro, (D-Conn.), who oversees an FDA appropriations subcommittee. Her measure would create a stand-alone agency within the Health and Human Services Department to handle food-safety issues now under the FDA. Although he did not give specific recommendations, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also endorses a single food agency. 

 “Taxpayers don’t have unlimited resources and they expect Congress and the administration to focus our food safety funding on those products that pose the greatest risk of food-borne illness.” Faber said.

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