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Old 05-19-2007, 12:55 PM   #1
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Exclamation New Food Safety Bill

The information below was taken from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's website: http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=273386


DURBIN, DELAURO INTRODUCE NEW FOOD SAFETY BILL IN WAKE OF WIDENING RECALLS
Tuesday, 1 May 2007

[WASHINGTON, DC] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced legislation that will revise and upgrade the nation's food safety system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one of the federal agencies charged with safeguarding the U.S. food supply, has come under fire recently in the wake of nationwide recalls and/or quarantines of tainted pork, spinach, peanut butter and pet food.

Durbin and DeLauro's legislation would give the FDA the power to order mandatory recalls of adulterated food products, establish an early warning and notification system for human food, as well as pet food, and establish fines for companies that don't promptly report contaminated products.

"The product recalls that we have seen in the past few weeks - first with pet food and then with food intended for human consumption - have shown us that food-borne illness is a dangerous and real threat in this country," Durbin said. "There are gaps in the inspection, monitoring, notification and enforcement elements of our food system and we must act now to address them. We simply cannot afford to let consumers continue to be the guinea pigs in our food safety system."

"After the countless recalls, alerts and advisories from the past year, along with the latest CDC numbers showing increases in various food-borne illnesses, the evidence is clear our food safety system is collapsing and one of the main agencies charged with protecting it, is asleep," stated DeLauro. "This needs to change immediately - it is time to transform the FDA from the toothless agency it has become to one that takes the proactive steps necessary to protect our food supply and the public health."

Durbin and DeLauro said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that as many as 76 million people suffer from food poisoning each year. Of those individuals, approximately 325,000 will be hospitalized, and more than 5,000 will die. With emerging pathogens, a population at high risk for food-borne illnesses and an increasing volume of food imports, this situation is unlikely to improve without decisive action.

Some of the new responsibilities given to the FDA under Durbin and DeLauro's new legislation include:

Providing the FDA the authority for mandatory recalls of contaminated or dangerous food. The FDA currently has no authority to order food recalls, but must rely on the industry to voluntarily pull products from store shelves.


Establishing an early warning and notification system for human food as well as pet food products. The legislation directs the FDA to work with professional organizations, veterinarians, and others to disseminate information about pet food contamination and in cases of both pet and human food, to keep up to date, comprehensive, searchable recall lists on their website.

Establishing uniform federal standards and better labeling of pet food. The guidances and practices that today govern the pet food industry are implemented on a voluntary basis by manufacturers and state departments of agriculture. However, there is no requirement for states to adopt these practices and they don't have the force of federal guidelines. Inspections are not coordinated state to state and some states have different standards than others.

Improving FDA's ability to regulate imported food products. The sources of the recent human and pet food contamination were wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate that originated in China. Neither shipment was inspected by FDA; in fact, FDA inspects fewer than 1.5% of imports. FDA does not currently certify that trading partners have food safety standards that are at least equivalent to those of the United States. This bill would direct FDA to establish a certification program with trading partners interested in exporting food products to the United States. Foreign food safety systems and plants would be inspected by FDA prior to certification and the Secretary would have the authority to revoke certifications and deny importation of food if it presented a public health risk.

Requiring companies to maintain records and make them accessible to FDA as part of an investigation. This provision would prevent delays that could keep contaminations from being traced as quickly as possible. In the case of the recalled peanut butter this past winter, an FDA report showed that inspectors were denied documents when they requested them. The bill would clarify that when FDA conducts inspections, it will have access to those documents needed for purposes of safeguarding the food supply.
Durbin and DeLauro have been actively engaged on food safety issues for over a decade. This Congress they introduced legislation that calls for the development of a single food safety agency and the implementation of a food safety program to standardize American food safety activities (The Safe Food Act - S. 654 and H.R. 1148 in the Senate and House respectively). Currently, there are at least 12 different federal agencies and 35 different laws governing food safety. With overlapping jurisdictions, federal agencies often lack accountability on food safety-related issues.

********************************************

Let your voice be heard, write to Chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, and express your views regarding the safety of our food resources. Go to: http://harkin.senate.gov/

Feel free to pass this on so other voices can be heard.
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