The Food Safety Enhancement Act has been broadly welcomed by industry but a group of organizations has issued a letter to the relevant committee voicing strong opposition to several of the bill’s provisions.
The agribusiness organizations’ objections have been raised as the bipartisan bill was passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday, moving the process forward to the House floor for full approval.
"As drafted, this legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new powers to regulate the entire spectrum of the agricultural and food system – from production agriculture to the final retail establishment,” they wrote, “In many cases without appropriate thresholds or accountability. We strongly urge that these deficiencies be corrected during full committee markup."
Their concerns include the expansion of FDA access to facility records, which they fear will result in “unwarranted and unreasonable ‘fishing expeditions’”, the implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL), which they say is “not a food or feed safety issue”, and the imposition of FDA registration fees. The group claims that the FDA has provided “no basis to justify the level of user fees” and that the bill “contains no constraint on FDA expenditures for food safety activities.”
The organizations also claim that the expansion of FDA recall authority goes too far in that it specifies needing ‘reason to believe’ that a product is adulterated and could cause serious health issues or death, rather than ‘credible evidence’.
They wrote: “If a ‘cease distribution’ or quarantine provision is retained in the bill, it must require that FDA have a reasonable probability, based upon scientific risk assessment, that the product in question will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.”
The bill includes several measures that industry representatives and food safety experts have urged for years, including more frequent FDA inspections, giving the agency the authority to instigate mandatory product recalls, and requiring food companies to carry out risk assessments. Those that have come out in support of added food safety provisions include the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the American Frozen Food Institute as well as the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumers’ Union.
Under the bill, registration fees of $500 for each food processing facility would help pay for the more frequent inspections – a compromise from the $1000 fee initially proposed.
Signatories to the opposition letter include the Corn Refiners Association, the American Soybean Association, the American Sugar Alliance and the National Oilseed Processors Association, among others.
A full copy of the letter can be accessed here .