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Food industry welcomes bipartisan food safety bill

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 05-Mar-2009
Last updated on 05-Mar-2009 at 17:29 GMT

Food companies have come out in support of stricter government regulation proposed by a bipartisan Senate bill intended to strengthen the FDA’s powers to ensure food safety.

Introduced in response to the nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products, the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act would require food companies to submit detailed food safety plans, give the FDA the power to order product recalls, and allow it greater access to company records.

The latest salmonella outbreak – which has so far caused 677 reported illnesses and nine deaths – has seen food manufacturers become increasingly open to government-mandated food safety measures, as public trust in the safety of the US food supply has hit at an all time low. It is thought that public trust was particularly damaged when it emerged that the Peanut Corporation of America, the company at the heart of the ongoing peanut product recall, knowingly shipped goods that were tainted with salmonella.

Support from food companies

Now individual food manufacturers are raising their voices in support of stricter government regulation.

Spokesperson for General Mills Kirstie Foster told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “We are strong advocates for food safety system modernization and reform. Ensuring food safety is the highest priority of our industry. We support reform that includes both greater authority and greater resources to strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to food safety issues.”

Kraft has also come out in favor of the legislation.

Spokesperson Susan Davison said that food manufacturers should build safeguards into both product design and the manufacturing process to ensure food safety. She added: “We believe that the proposed legislation will make significant improvements in this regard.”

The bill

The legislation was introduced on Tuesday by Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Senator Durbin said: “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. These are not isolated incidents and are the result of an outdated, under-funded and overwhelmed food safety system.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Amy Klobucher of Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Responding to the legislation’s introduction, the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s president and CEO Pam Bailey said in a statement: “Ensuring the safety of our products is the food industry’s most important priority...In particular, GMA 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.”

The ongoing peanut product recall is one of the largest recalls in US history, involving over 2,700 products from more than 200 companies.

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