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Food & Water Watch: Importing More, Inspecting Less, FDA Not Keeping Up with Food Imports, Food Safety Suffers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 30, 2007
1:06 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch  
Patty Lovera, 202-797-6553, plovera@fwwatch.org or Jen Mueller, 202-797-6553, jmueller@fwwatch.org

 
Importing More, Inspecting Less:
FDA Not Keeping Up with Food Imports, Food Safety Suffers
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
 

WASHINTON - April 30 - “The high profile food safety problems in recent months have focused overdue attention to the sorry state of our food safety regulations and the agencies that are charged with enforcing them.  The case of contaminated wheat gluten in pet and animal food is just the latest example of how federal regulators are unable to offer even a minimal level of protection to consumers in the face of ever-increasing food imports.    

“In addition to a lack of regulatory authority that forces the agency to rely on industry cooperation with voluntary guidelines, the Food and Drug Administration is chronically short on resources necessary to address food safety.

  • A total staff of 2700 employees, not all of whom are inspectors are responsible for policing more than 120,000 food processing establishments in the United States and more than 170,000 foreign plants that export food to the United States.
  • A food establishment that is under FDA jurisdiction can expect to see an FDA inspector just once every five years.
  • And FDA inspectors only re-inspect about one percent of foreign food that is imported into the United States. 
  • In the 1970’s, half of the FDA budget was devoted to food safety; today, that proportion has dropped to 20 percent. 


“Congress must give the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture the resources and authority they need to protect consumers.  In light of the continued onslaught of imported food, and the inability of federal agencies to provide adequate inspection of this food, we urge that:

  • All Chinese food and animal feed exports to the United States be halted until there are comprehensive inspections conducted of Chinese facilities by U.S. food safety officials.  These inspections must ensure that government inspection, sanitation and other food safety standards are equal to those met by U.S. food and animal feed producers. 
  • For exports to be restored, ALL Chinese food and animal feed products destined for the United States need to be re-inspected at U.S. ports of entry.  These inspections must include physical inspection and residue and microbial testing.
  • Action being considered by USDA to approve the export of processed Chinese poultry to the United States needs to be halted.  China still has an avian flu problem, has not proven that it can meet U.S. food safety standards, and has not controlled the smuggling of illegal poultry products to the United States and other countries around the world.”

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