Food-safety measure ‘inevitable,’ expert saysA bill that broadens the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over food safety, including the power to force recalls of tainted products, was an inevitable outgrowth of consumer demand and will benefit consumers and the food industry, a North Dakota State University professor said Tuesday.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
A bill that broadens the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight over food safety, including the power to force recalls of tainted products, was an inevitable outgrowth of consumer demand and will benefit consumers and the food industry, a North Dakota State University professor said Tuesday.
“I think there’s going to be major pluses for our food industry. This is a direction that our food industry has been moving for some years,” said David Saxowsky, who teaches agribusiness and applied economics.
“I think the major plus is that we’re recognizing that the entire food industry has to be thinking about concerns of food safety,” Saxowsky said.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama, is considered a major overhaul to the U.S. food-safety system.
It gives the FDA the authority to mandate recalls and to require more inspections of food-processing facilities and large farming operations.
Large farms and manufacturers must have food-safety plans, and the law requires inspections for foreign producers, too.
Small farms making $500,000 or less in a year are exempt from the rules.
The law was spurred by serious outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning in eggs, peanuts and produce in recent years.
“I think eventually it’s going to lead to an even safer food supply,” said Julie Garden-Robinson, a food and nutrition specialist with NDSU’s Extension Service.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that food-borne illnesses sicken
76 million Americans a year, with 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
The cost of those illnesses is $152 billion a year, according to a report released by the Produce Safety Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University.
Cass County Extension Agent John Kringler said he hasn’t heard many comments on the law.
Getting funding for the law – $1.4 billion over the next five years – may be a battle in itself.
Some Republicans, such as Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., a fiscal conservative who hopes to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says that’s too much in a time of austerity and that the FDA is already doing a good job.
The new law:
- Requires larger farms and food manufacturers to prepare detailed food-safety plans to tell the FDA how they are working to keep food safe throughout production.
- Gives the FDA the authority to order food recalls. In the past, it could only negotiate voluntary recalls.
- Requires the FDA to develop new safety rules for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables.
- Requires farms and processors to keep records to help the government trace recalled foods.
- Increases inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities.
Saxowsky anticipates food chain regulation to include grain and livestock producers in the next decade or two.
“This was inevitable that consumers would expect to know more” about the food they consume, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583