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DeLauro Assails Full-Scale Breakdown of Food Safety System and Introduces New FDA Reform Legislation

February 4, 2009
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn. -3) joined by Gabrielle Meunier, Mother of Salmonella Typhimurium victim; Jeff Almer, whose mother died as a result of salmonella poisoning and a S.T.O.P.-Safe Tables Our Priority member/victim advocate; and Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, at a press conference on the peanut butter salmonella outbreak. DeLauro also introduced food safety reform legislation, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would fix systemic problems in our food safety system by modernizing our food safety laws and establishing a separate Food Safety Administration headed by an expert in food safety within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation enjoys the support of the Center for Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention ; Center for Science in the Public Interest; Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; Food & Water Watch; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Safe Tables Our Priority; Trust for America’s Health (please click on the organization to view their endorsement).

“This salmonella outbreak represents the full-scale breakdown of a patchwork food safety system. And it should act as the final wake up call,” said DeLauro. “That is why, today, I am introducing the Food Safety Modernization Act to separate food safety regulation from drug and device approvals and to restore the balance that has long been missing at Health and Human Service.

Under the proposal, FDA would be split into an agency responsible for food safety (the Food Safety Administration) and another responsible for regulation of drugs and devices. This move creates an agency solely focused on protecting the public through better regulation of the food supply. The Food Safety Modernization Act would establish a farm-to-fork system for protecting foods that are currently regulated by FDA, which has jurisdiction over 80 percent of the food supply.

DeLauro also focused on the urgency for action, “With every recall the American people grow more concerned and the momentum for reform grows. For eight long years, our food safety system has been crippled by disinvestment, mismanagement, and a failure to meet its most basic regulatory responsibilities. True reform is going to require strong leadership from our president. I am confident, at last, that we have a government that understands its obligation to its citizens.”

In addition to the structural change, The Food Safety Modernization Act also updates food laws and would change the focus to preventing disease-causing contamination. The bill would utilize a modern approach to food safety by requiring food producers to: control health hazards in their operations; meet federal standards for preventing or removing contaminants and pathogens from food; and be subject to regular inspections by federal officials based on the risk profile of the products they produce. When prevention fails, the Food Safety Administrator would have sufficient enforcement authority, including authority to order recalls, seize unsafe food before it enters the market, and impose fines on companies that refuse to abide by the law.

“Together, we can act now to make it happen, transform the FDA, and begin a new movement that puts public health first,” DeLauro concluded. “At last, we can bring our current food safety system out of the past. It is about time.”