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Safe Food Act reintroduced in Congress

WASHINGTON Two members of the Congress have re-introduced a bill that calls for developing a single food-safety agency to absorb the functions of the 15 distinct federal bodies now charged with safeguarding the nation's food supplies.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said they plan to accelerate hearings on their Safe Food Act, which they have tried to push into law for more than a decade. The measure was reintroduced simultaneously in both chambers of Congress.

"From the E. coli outbreak that pulled spinach off store shelves to the Taco Bell outbreak that sickened individuals, it is clear that our food safety structure is collapsing and endangering public health," DeLauro said in a statement. The bill would create a new agency, dubbed the Food Safety Administration, that would be responsible for regular, random inspection of all food processing plants; increased oversight of imported foods; and the adoption of stiffer requirements for tracing foods to their point or origin.

The National Restaurant Association and many restaurant chains, including Taco Bell and Taco John's, which also had an E. coli outbreak late last year, have advocated voluntary measures to strengthen food safety.

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