Shrimp amendment cut from U.S. food-safety bill

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a food-safety bill that has been on the backburner for a year, but without a recent amendment targeting shrimp imports.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) in March 2009, is designed to expand the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to test food for pathogens, trace outbreaks, order recalls and penalize companies. On Tuesday, the bill passed the Senate with a 73-to-25 vote.

On Monday, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced language that would require the FDA to increase testing of imported shrimp from less than 2 percent to 20 percent by 2015. The goal was to curb shrimp imports tainted with illegal antibiotics and pesticides, she said.

Although the amendment was not included in the final legislation, other language proposed by Landrieu to aid her state’s beleaguered seafood industry will require the FDA to conduct public health and cost assessments before issuing any new regulations affecting the processing and consumption of raw oysters.

“This amendment ensures that the FDA’s overreaching approach is abandoned for good and helps put us on a sustainable path forward to protecting the small number of at-risk consumers, while making sure our oyster industry is vibrant well into the future,” said Landrieu. “We simply cannot afford another setback for our oyster industry as it recovers from the BP oil spill.”

The National Fisheries Institute on Tuesday commended the Senate for passing the food-safety bill, which it has supported since its introduction.

“This food-safety legislation demonstrates Congress’ confidence in seafood HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point), FDA’s successful preventative controls concept,” said NFI President John Connelly.

“As Congress further strengthens FDA, now is not the time to cannibalize the nation’s leading food-safety agency by carving out some sectors of seafood for regulation by U.S. Depatment of Agriculture,” added Connelly, refering the measure in the 2008 Farm Bill that would transfer inpection of catfish and pangasius from the FDA to USDA.

In addition to NFI, the Food Marketing Institute also applauded the new food-safety bill.

“With today’s Senate vote, we have taken another important step toward modernizing America’s food-safety network and focusing on preventing problems before they occur, rather than just reacting to them,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin. “Now it is imperative that the House and Senate immediately reconcile the differences between their two proposals and find a path for a food safety bill to be enacted into law by the end of the year.”

“I urge the House, which has previously passed legislation demonstrating its strong commitment to making our food supply safer, to act quickly on this critical bill, and I applaud the work that was done to ensure its broad bipartisan passage in the Senate,” said President Barack Obama said in a statement.

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