House wins NRA support with companion food safety bill

WASHINGTON The National Restaurant Association on Friday praised the introduction of a House version of a bipartisan measure that would strengthen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ability to protect the nation's food supply.

The NRA commended Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Adam Putnam, R-Fla., for reintroducing into the U.S. House of Representatives the Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting, or FEAST, Act. The recrafted version of the bill would give the FDA wider authority, including the statutory power to recall contaminated food in the case of adulteration.

Afew days earlier, the restaurant trade association also had applauded The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, which had been introduced in the Senate by sponsors Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Richard Burr, R-N.C.

The measure also is co-sponsored by Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

"Over the last year we've seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with salmonella, spinach laced with E. coli and chili loaded with botulism," Durbin said. "These are not isolated incidents and are the result of an outdated, underfunded and overwhelmed food safety system."

Among other things, the House measure would ensure that imported food products would have to adhere to the same standards as set by the FDA and establish new standards for fruits and vegetables, including updating the Good Agricultural Practices Guidance for safe production.

The FEAST Act also would give the FDA authority to access food safety production records during emergencies and deny importation of goods if strict food safety standards are not met.

The Senate bill would enable the FDA to increase the frequency of inspections at food facilities; give the agency expanded access to records and testing results; and allow it for the first time to recall dangerous food products if a company fails to recall a product at the FDA's request.

The Senate measure seeks to improve the FDA's performance in four critical areas: foodborne illness prevention, foodborne illness detection and response, food defense capabilities, and overall resources. The measure also seeks to boost funding for the agency's food safety activities by increasing appropriations and imposing targeted fees for domestic and foreign facilities.

Beth Johnson, the NRA's executive vice president for public affairs thanked lawmakers in both chambers and said the association supports efforts to create a stronger food safety system.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] [3].