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For Immediate
December 17, 1998


For more information:

Food Industry Legislative Agenda Threatens Consumer Health and Welfare

The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) legislative agenda for the next Congress threatens consumer health and pocketbooks, charged the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

"The food industry’s legislative agenda is a smokescreen for deregulation that would repeal consumer protection laws and undermine progressive legislative initiatives," stated Bruce Silverglade, CSPI director of legal affairs.

The National Uniformity for Food Act of 1998 (H.R. 4383 and S. 2356) purports to establish a nationally uniform system of food labeling but the actual effect of the legislation, and GMA’s goal, is to repeal state warning label requirements for seafood, dietary supplements, and other products without replacing them with comparable federal rules.
GMA’s demands for "free trade" and enforcement of World Trade Organization decisions would actually undermine the rights of nations, including the United States, to enforce food safety and labeling requirements that exceed weak international standards developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a subsidiary body of the United Nations that is dominated by the food industry.
GMA’s demands for more flexible FDA regulation of so-called "functional foods" would actually undermine consumer safety and labeling rules for health claims previously established by Congress and the FDA. The food industry is trying to market foods with added ingredients that are intended to provide a health benefit even though in many cases the scientific community has not yet concluded that these new ingredients are safe and effective.
GMA’s call for a "regulatory framework that assures safe and affordable food for everyone," and a "strong, credible, science-based Food and Drug Administration" is intended to defeat recommendations for a new single food-safety agency combining the functions of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other agencies under a single independent administrator.

CSPI believes that Congress should:

Establish a single independent food safety agency to replace the existing programs at the FDA, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service (seafood), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Enact legislation to give USDA and FDA authority to recall contaminated food and to fine food companies that violate food-safety statutes.
Give FDA a legislative mandate to inspect food plants four times per year and to send inspectors to our foreign trading partners to check the conditions under which imported foods are produced.
Urge the Administration to modify the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures to give the United States and other nations a greater ability to establish and maintain health and safety regulations that exceed international standards.
Enact legislation that expands state regulations for warning labels on fresh seafood, freshness dating of food, and labeling of previously frozen food into nationally uniform federal regulatory requirements.
Codify the FDA’s authority to require food manufacturers to prove the safety and effectiveness of "functional food" ingredients before they are marketed.

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