FDA Backs Fees on Food Companies

In another move to help repair this country’s broken <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety system and beleaguered Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency’s newly appointed commissioner—Dr. Margaret Hamburg—said that implementing a $1,000 per-facility fee could go a long way toward boosting the nation’s food safety, reported Reuters.

Food safety in the United States would be greatly improved if the government implements a $1,000-per-facility fee cover the cost of increased plant inspections and other food safety initiatives, said Dr. Hamburg. Reuters explained that the annual fee would bring in about $378 million. “I understand that fees represent a burden on companies … but I do think that fee is an investment in a robust and effective food safety system,” said Dr. Hamburg, quoted Reuters.

Dr. Hamburg was speaking to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee and added that, “It’s a very important component of any food safety plan that Congress would enact.” The proposed fee is actually part of a larger food safety bill under discussion by the subcommittee, explained Reuters.

Some Republicans and members of industry—such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association disagree with the proposed fees.

We recently explained that President Barack Obama announced a Cabinet-level food safety group, plans to increase the number of FDA food inspectors, and plans to bring food safety labs to current standards. The proposed food safety legislation was just introduced in the House by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (Democrat-California) and Representative John D. Dingell (Democrat-Michigan), reported the Washington Post previously. If passed, the bill would give the FDA expanded authority such as the ability to recall tainted food—a power the agency does not currently hold. The FDA would also be able to “quarantine” questionable food; impose civil penalties and increase criminal sanctions on violators; and mandate private laboratories hired by food manufacturers report any food contamination to the government, the paper added.

The FDA has been routinely criticized for lax oversight on drug safety, medical device safety, and food safety issues that include the historic and massive salmonella outbreak linked to horrendous conditions at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). That outbreak sickened over 900 people and was linked to at least nine deaths; 46 states were involved and over 3,000 products were recalled, making it the largest food recall in American history. According to the Washington Post, federal officials believe that tens of thousands more people were likely sickened.

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Although a number of other deadly and widespread outbreaks have plagued the nation in recent years, it was the disgusting conditions and ongoing negligence involved in the PCA debacle that forced serious food safety reform. The scandals revealed during the outbreak highlighted myriad problems with current food safety processes and prompted attention from President Obama, said the Washington Post; the president continues to take steps to correct the issues hampering the battered agency and has called for an FDA and food safety system overhaul. For instance, yesterday, we wrote that the FDA announced it is creating a task force to develop recommendations for enhancing the transparency of its operations and decision-making processes.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 76 million people in the United States are sickened with food borne illnesses annually, resulting in about 5,000 deaths.

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