Food safety bill approved by House committee

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Food Safety Bill Approved by House Committee
Statement by Consumers Union

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumers Union (CU), the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today applauded the unanimous vote by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in favor of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.
Jean Halloran, the director of Consumers Union’s food safety campaign, said, “The bill would go a long way towards preventing outbreaks like the ones we have seen with spinach and peanut butter. Among the many important provisions in this bill, we’ve pushed hard to require high-risk food processors to test for contaminants and tell the FDA when they find them, and we’re pleased that this provision was added to the bill approved today.”
Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “We’re now one step closer to real reform. We commend the leadership of the committee –Congressmen Waxman, Dingell, Pallone, and Stupak — for all of their efforts to get this legislation approved. The bill passed with bipartisan support, which gives us real momentum moving forward. We hope that the legislation moves to the House floor quickly and the Senate passes a strong bill so a final package can be sent to the President soon. Congress needs to act before we discover another food contamination that takes consumers’ lives.”
The food safety bill contains several provisions long advocated by Consumers Union. Among the items that will benefit consumers are:
• Inspections of high-risk food facilities at least every 6-12 months as well as inspection of lower-risk facilities at least once every 3 years (FDA currently averages inspections once every ten years) Consumers Union said the schedule for high-risk facility inspection is an improvement over previous versions of the bill.
• A requirement that says, after a period of information gathering and study, FDA will be able to require high-risk food facilities to submit the results of testing their finished food products for safety.
• A requirement that all registered domestic and foreign food facilities identify hazards and implement steps to prevent or reduce contaminants that may appear in food.
• A requirement that businesses keep basic safety records in a standard format so they are easier for FDA to review.
• Authority for FDA to order a recall if a company fails to do so when requested.
• A requirement that food facilities selling to American consumers register with the FDA and pay annual fees.
• A requirement that FDA gather information and run a pilot project to set up a method to trace food back to its source in the case of contamination. Such a “traceback” system will have to allow FDA to trace food back to its source within 2 business days, a power which was clearly lacking at the agency during last year’s salmonella outbreak with peppers.
Consumers Union also supports a requirement in the bill that FDA take another look at the scientific data on the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA), a plastic additive that appears in many food and beverage containers. Consumers Union believes that there is sufficient scientific justification for an immediate ban on BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and other baby food containers.
As the process moves forward, Consumers Union urges Congress to return to the legislation two strong provisions in previous versions of the bill: meaningful civil penalties to deter wrongdoers, and language protecting strong state food safety laws – like that passed in Georgia regarding safety inspections and testing – that provide even higher protections to consumers.
Media Contacts:
David Butler, 202-462-6262
Kristina Edmunson, 202-462-6262
Naomi Starkman, 917-539-3924 (mobile)
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.