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The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and United Fresh have each issued statements supporting the U.S. House of Representatives for including the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 in the continuing resolution which was passed last night.
“We applaud the House of Representatives for approving important legislation to modernize America’s food safety system,” said FMI president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “Preventing problems in the food supply is the best way to ensure safe food and avoid foodborne illness. Providing additional funding to the Food and Drug Administration for inspections, requiring food producers to have detailed food safety plans and enhancing traceability will all go a long way toward improving the safety of our food supply. We urge the Senate to again pass this legislation as soon as possible.”
While United Fresh also supports the legislation, SVP Robert Guenther said there is still work to be done. “United Fresh has strongly supported modernization of our food safety laws for the past four years, working with Members of Congress and the Administration, and testifying before House or Senate committees more than 10 times,” he said. “There is no doubt the food safety bill passed as part of the Continuing Resolution contains a number of important provisions that we have long supported, including implementation of preventive controls for production and processing of specific fruits and vegetables when shown necessary by a risk-based, scientific analysis by FDA.”
“Yet, the Tester amendment inserted into the Senate bill, and now passed by the House, weakens public health protection by exempting some producers and processors based only on the size of their business, their geographic location, or to whom they sell their products,” he noted. “The statutory enactment of non science-based exemptions would limit FDA’s ability to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards. We fear that this profound error will come back to haunt the Congress, public health agencies, consumers and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions. Food safety must be a universal commitment, shared by all who would grow, process, and sell foods.
Guenther also added that while the food safety bill will do much good, it was regrettable that the House leadership failed to exercise its responsibility to engage with the Senate in a conference to fix these provisions. “Our industry and a large number of House members have urged repeatedly over the past week that a conference could be completed within the remaining days of this session,” he said. “When it became apparent that the House would need to pass its own bill due to the constitutional problems with the Senate bill, this afforded the direct opportunity to provide due diligence to correct this mistake, and send a better bill back to the Senate, which must again pass the bill in any case.
“For all of us who have worked long and hard to pass food safety reform, this is a bittersweet moment, with a job only partially done. As we look ahead, we will continue to voice our strong support for uniform, risk-based food safety standards, whether in the remaining days of this Congress, or in the new Congress convening in January.”
FMI represents more than 1,500 food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world.