Senate hearing on food safety legislation (SB 510) (Food Safety Modernization Act) will occur soon, maybe even next week. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a group of colleagues have proposed the legislation in response to a number of recent outbreaks of food poisoning linked to Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and other pathogens. Among other things, the legislation would give the FDA broader authority to inspect food processing establishments.
From Senator Durbin’s website:
The recent recalls of tainted peanut butter, spinach, seafood, and pet food are only the latest examples of today’s broken food safety system. Authority for regulating our nation’s food supply is split among more than ten federal agencies. Most of these agencies lack the resources necessary to ensure the integrity of the food we consume.
I am working to secure increased resources for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety program, and I am the lead sponsor of several pieces of legislation designed to improve our food safety system. Among these bills is the Safe Food Act, which would streamline our food safety structure, improving coordination by combining the disparate food safety functions spread across the federal government into a single agency based on scientific principles. We also need to establish a robust system for overseeing the safety of imported food. I introduced legislation to strengthen the FDA’s ability to monitor and inspect goods that enter the U.S. from abroad by imposing a fee on companies and countries exporting food products to the U.S. Consumers often take for granted that the food they purchase will be safe whether it originated in the U.S. or was imported, but the standards of other countries and the lack of U.S. food inspectors monitoring imported food too often proves them wrong.
Time for everybody to call your Senators, no matter which party you, he, or she belongs to. The safety of the food supply is way too important an issue, and the regulatory problems way too complex, to sideline this important legislation. S 510 is not the entire solution to many of the food poisoning problems that we currently face, but its a good first step.