New muscle and resources will help FDA prevent contaminated food, says CSPI

WASHINGTON—Historic legislation to reform food safety at the Food and Drug Administration moved a step closer to becoming a reality today as the Food Safety Enhancement Act was voted out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bipartisan bill, spearheaded by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI), has the support of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and a broad coalition of consumer and public health groups.

The bill includes many measures that food safety experts have urged for years, including a requirement for food companies to identify the risks associated with their products and to institute preventive control measures. It also would require the FDA to conduct more frequent inspections of food processing facilities, and gives the agency the authority to order companies to recall contaminated food. Small new registration fees imposed on food processing facilities would help pay for the more frequent inspections.

"Americans are sick and tired of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses and recalls of tainted foods," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "This long-overdue legislation refocuses FDA on preventing problems, rather than reacting to each new food crisis. Consumers have lost confidence in the safety of our food, and Congress can help restore it by passing this important bill without delay."

The bill comes in the wake of several years' worth of high-profile cases of contaminated FDA-regulated foods, including spinach, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, pistachios, and even pet food. The Food Safety Enhancement Act is the culmination of at least 24 hearings in the House and the Senate in recent years, and decades of lobbying by food safety advocates.

"In addition to Chairman Waxman and Representative Dingell, Representatives Frank Pallone, Diana DeGette, and Bart Stupak all played critical and constructive roles in moving this legislation forward," said DeWaal. "They deserve thanks from all of us who enjoy eating safe, wholesome food."