I was privileged this morning to speak at the Northwest Food Processors Association Executive Business Summitt. I was on a panel discussing pending food safety legislation. It was a lively discussion amongst a group of industry executives that were plainly committed to food safety.
Still, this does not mean that there was universal support for all of the pieces of pending food safety litigation. One issue involved a significant differnece between two major pieces of legislation to be discussed by Congress this year. Senator Durbin’s Food Safety Modernization Act calls for increased inspection of food processors, but does not call for those processors to pay for that increase – the bill does not contain a provision for user or registration fees.
Congressman Dingle’s FDA Globalization Act, however, calls for such fees as part of its structuring of increased inspection.
The sentiment from this morning’s group was pretty clear – the food processors do not want to pay fees for the inspection, viewing them as a direct tax on their industry. If industry doesn’t pay, though, it can only be done through congressional appropriations – i.e. taxpayers. This doesn’t figure to be particularly popular in today’s economy either.
An unfunded or under-funded mandate to increase inspections will only hurt the food industry in the long run. As the bills move forward and discussion becomes more focused, I hope that industry leaders can think long term, and work toward adopting the bill that will ultimately proove the most successful in increasing the safety of the U.S. food supply.