Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Bipartisan legislation expands FDA's ability to protect consumers Washington, D.C-As part of her ongoing efforts to enact vital consumer protection reforms, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, along with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), introduced legislation to overhaul the federal government's food safety system. In the wake of a nationwide salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated peanuts, Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 in the Senate today. "The first responsibility of a government is to protect its citizens," said Klobuchar. "Ensuring that Americans have safe food is a basic issue of public safety, health and consumer protection. Whenever contaminated food is allowed to reach consumers, public trust in the integrity of our food supply and the effectiveness of our government is undermined. This bill will help give us the tools and authority for better inspections and a more responsive recall system." In February, Senator Amy Klobuchar convened a roundtable with Minnesota experts to discuss reforms needed to overhaul the federal government's food safety system. Among the roundtable participants were family members of two Minnesotans who died from salmonella-tainted peanut butter. Klobuchar also highlighted the need for change in the federal government's oversight of food safety at an Agriculture Committee hearing early February. Klobuchar has noted that on 12 separate occasions in the past two years, food samples at the Blakely processing plant, where the tainted peanuts came from, had tested positive for salmonella. "Making sure we have annual inspections of facilities that pose the greatest risk to the American public will go a long way towards ensuring this doesn't happen again." said Klobuchar. "We have some great examples in Minnesota of how this can be done right, from food producers to food processors to the University of Minnesota, which was the first to detect the source of the peanut problems." The legislation has received support from the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union, the American Feed Industry Association, the American Spice Trade Association, the American Frozen Food Institute and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Earlier this year, Klobuchar wrote to President Obama urging him to nominate a new permanent FDA Commissioner as soon as possible and begin the process of reforming the federal government's food safety system. The bipartisan bill focuses on four key areas where FDA's authorities and resources need to be improved: food-borne illness prevention; food-borne illness detection and response; food defense capabilities; and overall resources. Specifically, the bill: Improves Our Capacity to Prevent Food Safety Problems Hazard analysis and preventive controls: Requires all facilities to have in place preventive plans to address identified hazards and prevent adulteration, and gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation. Access to records: Expands FDA access to records in a food emergency. Third party labs and audits: Allows FDA to recognize laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards and requires food testing performed by these labs to be reported to FDA. Allows FDA to enable qualified 3rd parties to certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards. Imports: Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food. Allows FDA to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry to a food that lacks certification or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors. Improves Our Capacity to Detect and Respond to Food-borne Illness Outbreaks Inspection-Increases FDA inspections at all food facilities, including annual inspections of high-risk facilities and inspections of other facilities at least once every four years. Surveillance--Enhances food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses. Traceability-Requires the Secretary of HHS to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking/tracing fruits and vegetables in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak. Mandatory Recall-Gives FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall of a food product when a company fails to voluntarily recall the product upon FDA's request. Suspension of Registration-Empowers FDA to suspend a food facility's registration if there is a reasonable probability that food from the facility will cause serious adverse health consequences or death. Enhances U.S. Food Defense Capabilities-Directs FDA to help food companies protect their products from intentional contamination and calls for a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats and rapidly respond to food emergencies. Increases FDA Resources-Increases funding for FDA's food safety activities through increased appropriations and targeted fees for domestic and foreign facilities.