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The Grocery Manufacturers Association applauded the U.S. Senate for its vote to move ahead with consideration of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
The United Fresh Produce Association offered similar praise, but cautioned legislators regarding the scope of the eventual law.
“GMA and the food and beverage industry are committed to partnering with Congress, the administration and the FDA to strengthen and modernize our nation’s food safety system,” said Pamela Bailey, GMA president and CEO. “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will provide FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies. We urge the Senate to vote on this important, bipartisan bill as early as possible during the lame-duck session."
The cloture motion was passed on a vote of 74-25. The Senate will now move forward with up to 30 hours of debate on this bill before coming up for final passage. The proposed law is expected to enhance public health and safety by requiring all food companies to develop a food safety plan, adopting a risk-based approach to inspection and improving the safety of imported food and food ingredients.
“The fresh produce industry strongly supports the modernization of federal food safety laws and has supported legislation both in the House and Senate for the last several years along these lines,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh Produce Association senior VP of public policy. “Unfortunately, the Senate may undermine this effort by including language in the final bill that would exempt certain sectors of the food industry based on geographic location, size of operation and to whom they sell their food products. Supporters of this effort have portrayed these exemptions as protecting small businesses, that locally-grown commodities are somehow safer, or that federal government standards are not adequate. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Guenther noted that when a food safety incident occurs, farmers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers, “regardless of size, suffer significant economic hardships.” Most importantly, he added, “the vast majority of businesses who suffer this economic hardship have nothing to do with any single food safety incident. In addition, small and local food operations have been associated with a number of food safety incidents and recalls over the last decade and are not immune based on size of operation, distance of geography or commodity.”
Guenther continued: “Statements have been made indicating that fresh produce would be covered under this bill and consumers could be more confident in their food supply. Unfortunately, consumers will be left vulnerable to the gaping holes and uneven application of the law created by these exemptions.”
An effective food safety program, Guenther said, is a shared responsibility of everyone. “Most importantly, each of us has to do our part whether we are a producer, processor, food retailer or foodservice provider, or a consumer,” he said. “This also means that Congress needs to do its part by supporting a uniform food safety bill that will enhance food safety for citizens of this country and reject arbitrary exemptions that pick winners and losers.”
Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association is the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies. GMA helps its members produce safe products through a strong and ongoing commitment to scientific research, testing and evaluation, and to providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.
Founded in 1904, Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations.