U.S. House subcommittee tackles food safety


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 2, 2009

The U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on Wednesday to collect testimony on a draft of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, released last week.

If passed, the act — which is designed to allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take a more preventive approach to food safety — would impact domestic and foreign seafood suppliers significantly.

The act would require the FDA to review the use of carbon monoxide to treat seafood and other meat

The act would require all domestic and foreign facilities producing food for the U.S. market to register with the FDA annually, to pay an annual registration fee of USD 1,000 (EUR 708.50), and to pay for re-inspections and food recalls. The fee would generate revenue for the FDA’s food-safety activities.

The act would set a minimum inspection frequency for all registered facilities — once every six to 18 months for facilities deemed high risk by the FDA, once every 18 months to three years for low-risk facilities, and once every three to four years for food-storage facilities.

Also, the act would allow the FDA to require food imports to be certified for meeting all U.S. food-safety laws by a foreign government or an accredited third party.

However, the act would not amend existing HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) programs, including seafood HACCP.

At Wednesday’s hearing, new FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, participating in her first legislative hearing as the agency’s head, expressed her support for the act.

“The discussion draft would indeed transform our nation’s approach to food safety from responding to outbreaks to preventing them,” she said. “It would do so by requiring and then holding companies accountable for understanding the risks to the food supply under their control and then implementing effective measures to prevent contamination.”

“We support many of the proposals in the discussion draft by emphasizing the need have preventive measures be the foundation on which any food safety system should be built,” said Mike Ambrosio, VP of quality assurance, Wakefern Food Corp., on behalf of the Food Marketing Institute.

“The draft also recognizes that we need to focus the majority of our resources on facilities and products that pose the greatest risk of contamination that could result in food-borne illness or injury,” he noted, adding that any changes to the draft are affordable and realistic for food facilities to attain.

In her testimony, Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, took issue with “unclear” language in the discussion draft that would allow the FDA to preempt more proactive state laws, such as California’s Proposition 65 law, which requires food manufacturers to label products containing potentially hazardous ingredients.

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