New standards for food safety proposed
U.S. Senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Herb Kohl, D-Wis., have introduced legislation to establish a 'national food safety framework for fresh produce' that would also require imported food to meet the same standards.
The bill comes one year after spinach contaminated with E. coli sickened more than 200 people and killed three.
Harkin's office noted there have been several other cases of contaminated food over the past year, including peanut butter, seafood, pet food, and another case of salad contaminated with E. coli last week.
'Fresh-produce recalls have become the rule rather than the exception in the United States ' and that is unacceptable,' Harkin said. 'It is increasingly clear that the Food and Drug Administration lacks the resources ' and the authority ' to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply.'
His proposed law would give the FDA the authority to make its current voluntary guidelines mandatory. The bill requires FDA to establish national standards tailored to specific commodities and the risk factors in the environments where each is grown. It also requires stepped-up inspections of operations that grow and process fresh produce, such as spinach or lettuce.
Other key provisions of the bill include a surveillance system to identify the sources of fresh produce contamination, and a research program to better identify, mitigate, and prevent contamination of produce.
The bill would require a rulemaking to ensure that imported produce has been grown and processed with the same standards that are required domestically within the United States.
Tom Stenzel, chief executive officer of the United Fresh Produce Association, said the proposal 'is a useful first step in considering ways in which the government can be even more effective in ensuring safety and also raising public confidence to increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.'
He said the practices 'are commodity-specific, and thus are tailored to address specific preventative measures for different commodities that are grown and harvested in many different ways.'