The nation’s leading consumer and food safety organizations are urging 11 of the country’s biggest food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurant chains to oppose the Regulatory Accountability Act, which the groups say would effectively block any new regulations improving food safety. The bill passed the House in January and could be voted on by the Senate as early as May. But food safety experts say that the legislation, which would require officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies to seek out the least costly, and not the most beneficial, regulatory approaches to food safety problems, would more accurately be called the “Filthy Food Act.”
The 11 companies—Campbell Soup Company, Cargill, Coca-Cola, CVS Health, Domino’s Pizza, General Mills, PepsiCo, Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and Yum! Brands— belong to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, or the Business Roundtable, all of which have endorsed the bill. The bill would subject proposed regulations to unprecedented new layers of review and would elevate politics over science by giving appointees at the White House new authority to meddle in agency affairs, according to the groups.
“Food safety rules help reduce the risks posed by pathogens, additives, and pesticides,” the groups state in their letter to the companies. “But, the ‘Filthy Food Act’ passed by the House would create an unprecedented regulatory gauntlet through which no food safety rule or guidance could pass. The ‘Filthy Food Act’ would arbitrarily cut science out of the regulatory process, replacing public input and expert analysis with never-ending reviews and layers upon layers of wasteful Congressional and judicial red tape. These changes would paralyze the federal response to emerging public health and safety threats, including threats to food safety.”
Signatories to the letter include the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, and Food Policy Action.
“Manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants generally take food safety seriously, which is why they should not stand by while their trade associations try to dismantle the food safety system,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson. “Extremists like Steve Bannon may sneer at what he calls the ‘administrative state,’ but that’s generally what’s keeping E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria out of our food supply. We invite responsible food companies to work cooperatively with us to defeat this reckless and irresponsible piece of legislation.”