The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

Senate HELP Committee Weighing FDA Reform Legislation

CSPI Urges Quick Action, With More Frequent Inspections & Testing


Yes, the United States Senate is focused on health care reform. But
if legislators want to save 5,000 lives and prevent 325,000 unnecessary
and expensive hospitalizations each year, they should fix food safety
too, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public
Interest. And the chance that the Senate will act this year on
legislation that would reform the nation's creaky and outdated food
safety laws got a boost with a key hearing held on the topic today.

"Consumer would rather pay at the check-out counter for
safer foods than at the emergency room. In fact, unsafe foods pose a
huge burden both to individuals and society at large, with estimates of
the financial toll ranging from $40 billion to well over $100 billion
annually," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal, who testified today
before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"Outbreaks over the last few years are the clear consequence of an
antiquated legal system that limits the Food and Drug Administration's
ability to ensure the safety of the food supply."

Senators are considering the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510),
sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL).
Like legislation passed in July by the House, S. 510 requires that food
processors register with the government periodically, implement food
safety plans and meet performance standards, and verify the food they
import complies with U.S. law.

While CSPI urges the Committee to move the bill forward to passage, CSPI also asked on behalf of the Make Our Food Safe
coalition that the bill is amended to require more frequent and
risk-based inspection of food processing facilities. The bill should
also require more microbial testing for pathogens and other
contaminants, as well as require government-to-government certification
to help assure the safety of imports.

Many in the food industry support FDA reform legislation
also. Besides CSPI, representatives from the Food Marketing Institute
and the United Fresh Produce Association testified at the Senate

"It is rare to see the level of consensus reflected
among such diverse consumer and industry organizations on the need to
fix our national food safety system," DeWaal testified. "Congress can,
with simple changes, take action this year to make food safer for
American consumers."

The hearing comes on the heels of a CSPI report detailing the ten riskiest foods regulated by the FDA.
That list that included a number of healthy foods that the group
recommends Americans should be consuming more of, like leafy greens,
tomatoes and berries.

Despite the outbreaks linked to those products, CSPI's
advice to consumers remains the same: Eat your veggies. "Just wash them
first, and ask your Senators to reform the FDA," DeWaal said.

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.