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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Food Safety on Senate’s To Do List?

Andrew Zajac of the Los Angeles Times penned what I hope to be correct – “Bill giving FDA new powers to oversee food supply has wide support.” He says, “Industry and public backing — a recent poll showed 90% of voters favor measures similar to those in the legislation — adds up to a "quick win for both parties."

According to those inside the beltway, that seems to be the case:

  • "There’s broad public support. It would be a quick win for both parties," said Erik Olson, director of chemical and food safety programs, in Pew’s Health & Human Services Policy program. "This is a rare situation where the industry is shoulder to shoulder with consumers."
  • The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), would require the FDA to step up inspections of food facilities and to issue new rules to improve the quality of imported food and to combat contaminants in fresh produce. The measure also would give the agency authority to recall products on its own, instead of relying on industry cooperation.
  • "Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t a report of an outbreak of food-borne illness or death in America," Durbin said. "The current system really just reacts to food illness. We have to have a system that is protective of consumers" by preventing outbreaks or nipping them in the bud.
  • An indication of the breadth of support for reform is the list of co-sponsors on Durbin’s bill. It includes five Republicans, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both senators from Georgia, a state hard hit by the peanut recall.
  • "This legislation affords regulators the authority they need to better identify vulnerabilities in our food supply while maintaining the high level of food safety most Americans enjoy and take for granted," Chambliss said in a statement.

Even someone in the "other Washington got a word in:

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in representing victims of food-borne illness. One little-noticed provision of both versions of the food safety bill requires the FDA to bolster the capabilities of local and state officials to spot illness outbreaks more promptly, Marler said.

"Assuming proper funding — and that’s a big assumption — the focus on money flowing to state and local health departments would allow you to do more rapid surveillance," Marler said. "They would have more information sooner and illness and business disruption would be reduced."

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