President to Sign Historic Food Safety Bill, Reforming FDA
Food Safety Plans & Inspections Will Reduce Recalls & Outbreaks, Says CSPI
WASHINGTON—Legislation that will dramatically upgrade the food safety functions of the Food and Drug Administration will be signed into law tomorrow by President Barack Obama, giving the agency a broad new mandate to prevent food from becoming contaminated. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, a long-time proponent of modernizing FDA’s food safety framework, says that implementation of the law will give Americans greater confidence in the safety and security of the food supply and will reduce the number of outbreaks of foodborne illness.
“This is a historic victory for consumers, who can now look forward to a future of safer food,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal, who has been advocating for FDA reform for more than 10 years “For far too long, the FDA has been in reactive mode, chasing down contaminated food after people are already sick with E. coli, Salmonella, or other dangerous pathogens. Now, by incorporating modern scientific and legal tools, the FDA will put the horse before the cart, requiring food manufacturers and farmers to implement plans aimed at preventing contaminated products. This is the most important food safety advance in 70 years.”
In recent years, the bill enjoyed the support of a broad coalition of consumer and industry groups. Besides CSPI, the coalition included the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, as well as the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Survivors of foodborne illness and relatives of deceased victims also played an important role lobbying for passage of the bill.
“Soon parents should be able to shop without worrying that the spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter, or eggs in their cart are going to cause illness and misery,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Once implemented, the law will give consumers greater confidence that the food they purchase comes from farms and facilities that follow good food safety practices, and that FDA inspectors can help verify that companies are adhering to those practices.”
Besides requiring companies to develop food safety plans and increasing the frequency of federal inspections, the bill gives the FDA authority to recall potentially contaminated food from the marketplace—a power the agency now lacks. The bill also improves surveillance of outbreaks of foodborne illness and sets higher standards for the safety of imported foods.
“This bill reflects years of work by a number of Members of Congress, especially Representatives John Dingell, Rosa DeLauro, Frank Pallone, and Henry Waxman, and Senators Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin,” said DeWaal. “President Obama deserves credit for making food safety an early priority of his Administration. But FDA’s job of implementing the bill will require Congressional oversight and new appropriations to ensure that the agency can effectively use the tools it has been given.”
Tomorrow’s bill-signing caps the most significant legislative year ever for food policy advocates and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Besides passing the food safety bill, Congress set the stage for eliminating junk food from schools, when it passed landmark child nutrition legislation. And in March, another of CSPI’s longstanding legislative priorities became law when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed. Besides providing unprecedented amounts of funding for state and local campaigns to promote healthier diets, the health reform law requires chain restaurants to list calories on menus and menu boards.