Food Safety Legislation Update
The House Energy and Commerce Committee convened to discuss draft legislation that would broadly affect regulation of food production, importation, and manufacturing inside and outside of the U.S. Newly confirmed FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified before the committee on The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (FSEA).
FSEAs major initiatives are:
- Registration fees for domestic and foreign producers as well as importers
- Creation of an identification system for businesses in the food supply chain
- Risk-based frequency levels of inspection
- Increasing FDAs subpoena power
- Two tier approach to recalls: voluntary and mandatory
Democratic Party proponents, led by Representative Dingell of Michigan, emphasized the “dire situation” of food safety and characterized the legislation as a means of recreating the FDA with new and stronger enforcement and financing tools. Opponents largely criticized the passing of costs to consumers, regulation that does not guarantee results, and also chided the hearing on draft legislation, rather than a finalized text. Another recurring critique was the broad discretion given to make mandatory recalls. Some committee members took exception to the Commissioners admission that senior officials, not only the Commissioner, might be given the power to issue mandatory recalls.
Commissioner Hamburg unequivocally supported the legislation, saying that it would base food safety monitoring on prevention. She also agreed with the legislations legal empowerment of the agency as well as its requirement that user fees be generated by the food industry.