Senate Health Committee to Consider Food Safety Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–November 17, 2009.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark up a bill to improve food safety (S. 510) this Wednesday, November 18. The House overwhelmingly approved food safety legislation in July, and Consumers Union (CU), the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is urging Congress to pass comprehensive legislation before the end of the year.

CU and other consumer and food safety groups have been pushing for tougher laws in the wake of deaths and illnesses linked to salmonella-tainted peanut butter, spinach contaminated with E. coli, and other outbreaks. The Senate bill, which is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would increase Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections of food processing plants. It would give FDA the authority to issue mandatory recalls of foods, which FDA currently cannot do, and it would require testing laboratories to notify FDA if they found deadly bacteria in a food when conducting FDA-mandated product testing. The bill includes language proposed by Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and others to preserve organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Jean Halloran, Director of Consumers Union’s Food Policy Initiatives, said Congress needs to pass food safety legislation this year to make headway against the thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and millions of illnesses that the Centers for Disease Control estimates result from contaminated food every year.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen outbreaks of food disease linked to everything from spinach to cookie dough,” Halloran said. “It’s become brutally clear that the laws need to be updated. The FDA desperately needs greater authority and sufficient funding. We’re glad to see the Senate taking the next step toward getting a food-safety bill approved so the President can sign it into law. ”

Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “This bill will help fix a broken-down system, and hopefully help restore people’s confidence in the safety of our food supply. There is solid, bipartisan support for bringing these outdated regulations into the 21st century. Congress needs to pass a strong law this year.”

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.