Consumer Advocates Hail Food Safety Reform

Consumer advocates who have long pushed for food safety reform are applauding the Senate’s Tuesday approval of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which would grant enhanced power to the Food and Drug Administration.

The Senate passed the long-stalled bill on a 73-25 vote, with many Republicans supporting the measure after supporting an earlier GOP filibuster.

“This morning, the U.S. Senate finally set aside partisan differences and passed historic legislation to protect consumers from preventable food-borne illness,” says Elizabeth Hitchcock, public health advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a Washington-based advocacy organization. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and more than 5000 people die each year from eating contaminated food. It’s unacceptable that this continues in the United States in the 21st Century.”

Specifically, Hitchcock says that the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would protect consumers by:

  • Requiring the food manufacturers to have food-safety plans that will prevent contaminated food from reaching consumers.
  • Setting responsible standards for produce safety, so parents can have confidence that fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious and safe to serve to their children.
  • Requiring more frequent inspections of food facilities to make sure they are following the rules.
  • Setting standards for imported food to end the practice by foreign producers of dumping unsafe food on the American market. Erik Olson, director of the Pew Health Group food programs, notes that repeated disease outbreaks from contaminated foods, including eggs, lettuce, spinach, cookie dough, peanut products and so many other foods illustrate how serious foodborne disease problems continue to harm consumers, as well as the food industry’s bottom line.

    “This legislation will guarantee stronger rules regarding the safety of imported foods, strengthen safety standards for food facilities and provide the FDA with the power to issue a mandatory recall of contaminated food, among other authorities,” Olson says. “This is crucial because the FDA is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the nation’s food supply.

    Hitchcock notes that the House passed its version of a food safety bill more than a year ago. Since then, there have been more than 100 voluntary recalls of FDA regulated foods because of pathogens like salmonella and E coli.

    The House now reportedly will approve the Senate version of the legislation so as to avoid a lengthy conference committee process that would reconcile differences between the two versions.

    “Congress should work quickly to finalize the bill and deliver it to the President’s desk without further delay,” she says.

  • The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.


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