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New food-safety steps proposed in House bill

WASHINGTON Federal lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill here today that addresses a number of what experts cite as critical challenges in safeguarding the U.S. food supply.

The Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act of 2008 drew a positive response from the National Restaurant Association, which called it “a good bill for the restaurant industry and its patrons.”

According to the NRA, the measure seeks to set mandatory safety standards for the growers and processors of higher-risk items like cantaloupe and green onions; provide recall authority for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and require international food suppliers to follow the same safety standards required of domestic suppliers.

The foodservice industry has been calling for the federal government to enact stronger measures that would help ensure the safety of the country’s food supply, particularly in light of recent food scares and product recalls.

“Food safety is one of the restaurant industry’s highest priorities, and we are working at the local, state, federal and international level to strengthen food safety systems and increase consumer confidence,” said Michelle Reinke, the NRA’s director of legislative affairs. “The Costa-Putnam bill is a laudable effort to move food safety forward in the Congress, and we believe this legislation will make our food safer.”

Reinke said that the bill’s bipartisan support is likely to help it gain momentum in Congress. “We think the bill could potentially move,” she said. “It has a lot that [lawmakers] can agree on.”

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Adam Putnam, R-Fla.

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