US consumer groups and recent victims of foodborne illness have urged the US Senate to pass a bill that will reform the country’s food supply – more than a year since the House of Representatives gave its green light to a set of similar proposals.
Consumer groups including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Consumer Federation of America yesterday (8 September) called on Senate lawmakers to act on legislation that they claim will improve the country’s record on food safety.
The consumer pressure groups said there had been 85 recalls in the US since the House passed a package of reform proposals in July last year. The recalls had made at least 1,850 people ill, the groups, which also includes the US PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, claimed.
“Recalls and outbreaks are the most public consequence of our horse-and-buggy food safety system,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the CSPI. “Consumers are sometimes sickened and everyone up and down the chain has to check for, remove, and destroy the contaminated products. Only Congress can fix the underlying problems by passing legislation that has been languishing in the Senate for over a year.”
The bill passed last July by the House planned to give the Food and Drug Administration greater enforcement powers and resources to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses.
However, farmers were exempt from the FDA registration fee and regulators were to have limited access to farm records.
The FDA’s power to set production standards was limited to include foods that were considered to represent the highest risk of contamination.
The House bill also stipulated that farms and food production facilities already regulated by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service – 20% of the US food supply – would not be subject to FDA oversight.
The pending Senate bill would, among other proposals, increase FDA inspections at all food facilities and give the food-safety watchdog the authority to order a mandatory recall of a product when a company fails to introduce a voluntary recall.
“Most Americans probably assume that FDA inspects farms and food processing plants are inspected regularly and that when problems arise, FDA can quickly order tainted eggs or spinach off the market,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Institute. “In fact, neither of those assumptions is true. The Senate food safety bill would give the FDA the authority it needs to do its job.”