Industry Opposition Slows Progress of Food Safety Bill
Legislation that would improve the safety of food has "stalled" in a House-Senate conference committee "because of resistance from the food industry," the New York Times reports. The food-safety measure, which is part of a larger anti-bioterrorism bill (HR 3448) that passed both chambers last year with wide bipartisan support, incorporated suggestions from the Bush administration and the FDA. The bill includes provisions that would:
- increase inspections of imported food;
- require importers to "give notice" of shipments;
- require food manufacturers and processors to register with the federal government;
- authorize the FDA to "detain food products without a court order"; and
- permit federal agents to "inspect company records that might disclose the source of tainted foods."
The bill would "be the most significant expansion of federal authority over the food industry in more than six decades," the Times reports.
The National Food Processors Association said it was "not convinced" that a new law was necessary, adding that the federal government already has "vast legal authority and numerous enforcement tools" for food safety. The Grocery Manufacturers of America, another trade group, said the legislation is "extremely broad, very open-ended and not very specific." The group has proposed amendments that would decrease the number of food companies required to register with the government and "reduce the penalties for violations." Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group, said, "[T]he [food] industry is trying to keep the FDA as weak as possible" (Pear, New York Times, 4/16).