Senators propose new food safety legislation

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators issued the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act on March 3, legislation prompted by the massive Peanut Corporation of America recall and intended to give the Food and Drug Administration greater authority in ensuring food safety.

The legislation was produced by Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Richard Burr of North Carolina. It was cosponsored by Senators Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Amy Klobucher of Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

The legislation calls for increasing the number of inspections at all food facilities, giving the F.D.A. expanded access to food company records and testing results, and gives the F.D.A. recall authority.

"Over the last year we’ve seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with Salmonella, spinach laced with E. coli and chili loaded with botulism," Mr. Durbin said. "These are not isolated incidents and are the result of an outdated, under-funded and overwhelmed food safety system.

"Today’s bipartisan bill will improve the F.D.A.’s ability to prevent food borne illness outbreaks and ensure F.D.A. responds quickly and effectively when outbreaks do occur."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association applauded the proposal.

"Ensuring the safety of our products is the food industry’s most important priority," said Pam Bailey, president and chief executive officer. "I applaud Senators During, Burr and Gregg along with their fellow co-sponsors for crafting sensible legislation that will strengthen the foundation of America’s food safety systems.

"In particular, G.M.A. supports proposals requiring all food companies to have a comprehensive food safety plan in place. It is absolutely critical that manufacturers take a preventative approach in identifying and evaluating potential hazards, and building food safety into the manufacturing process from the very beginning."

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