Food Safety Act Proposed

In the continuing fight to improve food safety in the United States, Senator Dick Durbin is seeking an overhaul of this country’s <"">food safety laws, said My Fox Chicago. Speaking at a local grocery, Senator Durbin, along with some food poisoning victims, met for a news conference in Des Plaines to announce that his food safety bill is coming up for a Senate vote in the next few days, added My Fox Chicago.

We have been covering the troubling issues surrounding food safety in the U.S. and recently wrote that a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to increase its focus on safety, especially for some specific food ingredients. This, in light of the ongoing and broad recall of potentially Salmonella-contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), said the Associated Press. The GAO is a so-called “watchdog arm” of Congress.

Now, Senator Durbin says that the FDA will be better able to improve how it protects this country’s food supply if Congress passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, said My Fox Chicago, citing a release from Durbin’s office. The Act would enable the agency some new “authorities, tools, and resources to comprehensively reform the nation’s food safety systems,” according to the release.

“We’ve seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with Salmonella, spinach laced with e-coli, and chili loaded with botulism…. These are not isolated incidents. They are the result of an outdated, under-funded and overwhelmed food safety system. My bill will improve the FDA’s ability to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and ensure that FDA responds quickly and effectively when outbreaks do occur,” quoted My Fox Chicago.

Senator Durbin further said, “Today, FDA is working within the constraints of outdated laws, inadequate staff, and not enough funding…. The agency has been set up to react to outbreaks of contamination. My legislation would take the FDA to a new level by empowering the agency to prevent outbreaks.”

The bill is constructed, according to the release, to more quickly and efficiently track the origins of food borne outbreaks, helping to prevent further outbreaks, increase food facility inspections, expand agency access to records and test outcomes, and allow the agency to issue recalls when a company does not recall a dangerous product, said My Fox Chicago. Citing the release, said My Fox Chicago, some 76 million Americans are sickened with preventable food borne illnesses with 325,000 requiring hospitalization and 5,000 dying.

Of note, we recently we wrote that the FDA announced—in part responding to the earlier GAO investigation—that it plans on stepping up its prosecutions of pharmaceutical and food industry executives as part of its work to revamp the agency’s criminal division said the Wall Street Journal. In addition to being condemned in a government report, the division was derided by Congress, added the Journal.

The FDA recently wrote to Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa), saying that an internal committee recommended that the agency and its Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) “increase the appropriate use of misdemeanor prosecutions, which allows responsible corporate officials to be held accountable and is a valuable enforcement tool,” quoted the Journal. The GAO report said the OCI has operated relatively separate from the FDA with no minimal accountability and no requirement to explain its investigations or use of funds, explained the Journal.

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