Food safety bill draws positive reviews from baking

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — "Pleased that many of the baking industry’s concerns were addressed" in the bill, the American Bakers Association praised the work of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee for its passage of the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act.

The bill passed the HELP committee unanimously and now awaits full Senate approval, which, if it occurs, is not expected until early 2010. Among differences with a food safety bill passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate version does not include $500 million in fees levied against food companies for increased inspections.

"Food safety is the highest priority for bakers," said Robb MacKie, president of the A.B.A. "It is incorporated into every aspect of our members’ daily operations, and as such, A.B.A. commends the Senate HELP Committee for addressing these critical issues."

He said the bipartisan bill seeks to enhance food safety and consumer confidence in the food supply.

The A.B.A. participated in a coalition of food industry groups to support a number of provisions in the plan.

Elements of the bill highlighted by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the HELP Committee, were:

• Hazard analysis and preventive controls — requiring all facilities to put in place risk-based preventive control plans to address identified hazards and prevent adulteration. Companies will be required to share the plans with the Food and Drug Administration.

• Imports — Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported foods, allowing the F.D.A. to mandate certification for high-risk foods and deny entry to food lacking such certification.

• Inspection — Requires the F.D.A. to inspect food facilities more frequently.

• Mandatory recall — Authorizes the F.D.A. to order a mandatory recall of a food product if the food may cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

• Administrative detention — Allows the F.D.A. to detain food that is misbranded or adulterated under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

• Increases F.D.A. resources — Food safety funding is increased through increased appropriations and targeted fees for food.

"Every foodborne outbreak underscores the need to take swift and effective action to ensure the safety of the food that American families eat," Mr. Harkin said. "I am pleased that after a great deal of time and effort from members on both sides of the aisle, the HELP Committee has a strong, bipartisan bill that will overhaul our current food safety system — a system that right now fails far too many American consumers."

Offering congratulations to Mr. Harkin, the ranking Republican member on the committee, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, said, "We have the tools, the expert knowledge and the innovative spirit to find better and more reliable systems to protect the public health from contaminated food."

In complimenting the committee, the A.B.A. noted the important role assigned by the bill to states and competent foreign authorities, as well as, proposals to give the F.D.A. enhanced enforcement powers to seek out bad actors.

"A.B.A. applauds the committee for making prevention a key focus of the legislation," said Lee Sanders, A.B.A. senior vice-president for government relations and public affairs. "A.B.A. is also pleased that S.510 seeks to provide F.D.A. with appropriated resources rather than through registration fees."

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