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Washington, D.C. -- In advance of the July 27 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on the National Uniformity for Food Act (S. 3128), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) here applauded the committee's decision to host a public hearing on the bill and urged the Senate to quickly consider and pass the legislation.
"GMA commends the Senate HELP Committee for hosting tomorrow's hearing, which will examine the merits of National Uniformity for Food Act," said C. Manly Molpus, GMA president and c.e.o. "As longtime supporters of this legislation, we believe this hearing will set the record straight on the intent and scope of the bill, and demonstrate to the Senate and the American public that this common-sense bill deserves to be passed on its merits."
GMA said S. 3128 will provide for nationally uniform food safety standards and warning labels on packaged foods under the purview of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Further, the bill specifically preserves the critical food safety functions of state governments, including enforcement, sanitation inspections, licensing and protection of public health in the event of food emergencies or terrorist threats.
During the hearing, members of the HELP Committee will hear expert testimony from several witnesses, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a co-sponsor of the bill; William Stadtlander, owner of Homestat Farms; Peter Barton Hutt, senior counselor at Covington & Burling, and former chief counsel for the FDA; and Dr. Elsa Murano, dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, and former under secretary for food safety of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"Consumers in the United States have access to the safest food supply in the world thanks in large part to the joint efforts of state and federal food safety officials," said Molpus. "The National Uniformity for Food Act will enhance that partnership while at the same time providing all consumers with consistent, science-based food safety information. We urge the Senate to quickly consider and pass this vital piece of legislation."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is opposing the bill, which the group says "purports to bring about uniformity between Food and Drug Administration regulations and various state laws." However, the organization says its sponsors' real target is California's Proposition 65, which requires warnings on products with ingredients that cause cancer or birth defects. However, many important food safety functions are primarily carried about by local and state governments, and CSPI says this overly broad bill would eliminate those statutes as well.
"The fallout from this attack on California's Proposition 65 could be the destruction of hundreds of other state and local food safety and labeling laws in every state," said CSPI senior staff attorney Benjamin Cohen, who submitted written testimony to the panel. "Parents pouring milk for their kids or dining in a restaurant shouldn't have to worry about getting a foodborne illness. Yet some Senators would place their constituents at greater risk of that just to please the powerful and politically connected food industry."