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Ingredients for a safe food supply

1 March 2009 1,401 views No Comment

Despite recent events, the United States continues to enjoy one of the safest food supplies in the world. But recent stories of food contamination have troubled many American consumers and, in some cases, affected their confidence in our food supply.

People need to know that the brands they buy and the foods they eat are safe, which is why product safety is priority one for our industry. Without consumer confidence, nothing else we do is possible. In an ever-expanding domestic and global marketplace, we must always be looking for ways to make that food supply even safer, whether goods are produced at home or abroad.

This can be a daunting effort. That is why the Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced a set of key elements we believe are vital to strengthening and modernizing our nation’s food safety system. The fundamental goals are to prevent food safety problems before they arise and strengthen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) oversight and enforcement with respect to domestic and imported food.

It is critical that the FDA be given the resources it needs to achieve its critical food safety mission.

The situation at FDA can be likened to the experience many of us have with our favorite car once it crosses the 100,000-mile mark. It is a good car and has served us well. But eventually, even good cars need a tune-up or repairs to keep them safe and in good working order. Such is the case at FDA.

This is why GMA is calling on Congress and the Obama administration to increase the FDA food budget to at least $900 million. This increased funding would allow FDA to hire more qualified staff and inspectors, invest in advanced technologies and state-of-the-art lab facilities and expand scientific programs. In the days of multi-billion dollar Wall Street bailouts, this relatively small investment will go a long way toward helping to ensure all Americans enjoy a safe food supply and protecting human health.

Congress’s role is critical. With laser-like focus on science-based, risk-based prevention of contamination, we strongly believe Congress should: require every food company to have a food safety plan available for FDA confirmation; require that food importers police their foreign suppliers and make a foreign supplier food safety plan available to FDA; focus inspections on facilities and foods that pose the greatest risk of contamination that could result in food-borne illness or injury; give FDA the power to establish federal safety standards for certain fruits and vegetables – when risk and science demonstrate that standards are needed; and give FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall when a company has refused to conduct a voluntary recall and there is a serious risk to public health.

By increasing FDA’s resources and doing much more to prevent contamination, we can immediately address the challenges of a global supply chain and changing consumer preferences.

Americans have a right to safe food. The right ingredients for food safety are prevention, partnership and resources. Working together, the food industry, Congress and federal agencies can ensure that American consumers continue to enjoy one of the safest food supplies on Earth.

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