Produce industry digs in on U.S. food safety bill
The U.S. fresh produce industry is urged to stay focused on food safety legislation making its way through Congress this summer.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 17 approved the 2009 Food Safety Enhancement Act. The bill is on its way for a potential vote in early July before the House's August recess.
'More than ever before, it is critically important that members of the produce industry actively engage with lawmakers on legislation that would both maximize public health and rebuild consumer confidence in our food safety system,' said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based United Fresh Produce Association.
Since May, United Fresh has advocated improvements to the House bill, including:
' Strengthening the bill's commodity-specific approach to produce.
' Eliminating its prescriptive dictates on traceability that could have blocked the industry-driven Produce Traceability Initiative.
' An exemption for produce from any duplicative requirements for country of origin labeling.
' Limitation on registration fees for both facilities and importers.
'As Senate leaders begin work on their own food safety bill later this year, we look forward to providing input that will result in passage of sound, scientific food safety legislation,' Stenzel said.
United Fresh encourages its members to engage lawmakers and Food and Drug Administration officials during its annual Washington Public Policy Conference on Sept. 9-11.
'There is no other issue that touches every aspect of our industry more than food safety,' said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh. 'I cannot think of any better reason for our industry to come to Washington and let our elected leaders and administrations officials know how their actions will affect not only the constituents in their own district, but the produce industry's ability to deliver healthy, safe and affordable produce to every congressional district across the country.'