On the heels of a massive scandal over salmonella-tainted peanut products, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are introducing new legislation that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new control to order recalls and open companies’ internal records for inspection.
The number of those infected with salmonella in peanut products has risen to 677, in 44 states, including nine deaths, according to the most recent update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The contamination was ultimately traced to a plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by the Peanut Corp. of America. A second plant in Texas, also owned by Peanut Corp., has now been implicated.
“Traditionally, the FDA has been a regulatory agency that responds only to problems. That’s simply not good enough anymore,” said Dr. Stephen Sundlof.
“The agency in charge of protecting nearly 80 percent of our food supply in this nation, simply can’t keep up with the challenge. Now is the time to make sure that it can,” says Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill), lead co-sponsor of the bill.
Incidents such as the salmonella outbreak are a direct result of a U.S. food safety system that is not only outdated but under-funded and overwhelmed, said Sen. Durbin.
Food-safety legislation would expand FDA access to food company records and tests, give it the power to order mandatory food recalls and increase funding.
The measure, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is one of many competing proposals being developed by lawmakers to rework food regulation and oversight. The chosen approach will reshape the $646 billion U.S. food industry, which includes Kraft Foods Inc. and Nestle SA of Switzerland.
“The roles and responsibilities Congress assigns to food safety agencies or whether these agencies have enough resources to fully partner with food companies is important, not the dividing and combining of agencies,” says Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs at the grocery manufacturers’ group.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 40,000 people are poisoned by salmonella every year and 400 die from food borne bacterial contamination. #