Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said the Safe Food Act of 2015 would replace current food safety oversight which is split up among 15 different agencies.
Something the pair said results in a ‘patchwork’ where no single voice guides industry, retailers and consumers.
The act would put food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement and labeling into one agency,
provide authority to require the recall of unsafe food, require risk assessments and preventive control plans to reduce adulteration.
It would also authorize enforcement actions to strengthen contaminant performance standards, improve foreign import inspections and require full traceability to better identify sources of outbreaks.
‘Fragmented food safety system’
Durbin said the fragmented nature of the food safety system has too often forced citizens to go it alone in the case of outbreak.
“The Safe Food Act that Congresswoman DeLauro and I are introducing would transfer and consolidate food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement, labeling, and research into a single food safety agency,” he said.
“That would allow us to prioritize system-wide food safety goals and targets. It would also help families navigate the differing federal, state, and local food safety agencies to get the answers they deserve.”
Durbin and DeLauro introduced similar legislation in 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2007.
DeLauro said the food safety system is ‘hopelessly fragmented and outdated’.
“Consequently, lives are unnecessarily put at risk and the need for reform becomes more urgent. I am proud to join Senator Durbin in introducing this bill to ensure that we have a single person being held accountable for food safety, research, prevention, inspections, investigations and labelling,” she said.
“We need a commonsense, 21st century way of ensuring food safety and a single food safety agency is it.”
CSPI and CFA reaction
Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI food safety director, said it hopes to see bipartisan support for what is called ‘common sense legislation’.
“It’s crazy to have one cabinet secretary in charge of chicken, beef, and pepperoni pizza, and another cabinet secretary responsible for eggs, milk, and cheese pizza,” she said.
The Safe Food Act brings all foods under a single agency, with one leader and a modern approach to food safety.
“It ensures all food processors utilize systems to prevent contamination, and when problems occur, creates a uniform approach to ensuring food safety, including mandatory recall authority for meat and poultry products.”
The Consumer Federation of America also expressed strong support for the act.
Chris Waldrop, director of the food policy institute at Consumer Federation of America, said food safety is a critical public health issue.
“But right now, responsibility for food safety is scattered among 15 different agencies. We need one independent agency focused on the safety of the entire food supply,” he said.
“A single food safety agency would allow us to better focus our resources where the greatest risks lie.”