IB98009 - Food Safety Issues in the 106th Congress
7-Nov-2000; Donna Vogt; 22 p.
Abstract: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in September new estimates showing that each year in the United States 76 million people get sick, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food-related illnesses. Food-borne illness is a serious public health problem. Often, people do not seek medical help and their illness is not officially reported. Yet, consumers have become aware of the serious consequences of illnesses linked to a growing variety of foods, produced domestically or imported. Consumers want the government to regulate the food supply, and industry is interested in producing foods that are safe at a reasonable price. As a result there is congressional interest in oversight and legislation in this area. Several federal agencies, along with cooperating agencies in the states, are responsible for assuring the safety, wholesomeness, and proper labeling of all foods for human consumption in the United States. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) authority to set and enforce standards for safety of all domestic and imported foods, except for meat and poultry. FDA also ensures that all animal drugs and feeds are safe, labeled properly, and produce no human health hazard when used in food-producing animals. Also under the FFDCA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits (tolerances) on the amounts of pesticide residues that can be found in or on food. The Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set and enforce standards for the safety of red meats and poultry. The food safety activities of these agencies consist of inspecting, testing, researching, and monitoring the food supply. In response to limited federal funding, FDA and USDA recently adopted a new approach to food safety and inspection. Known as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, it identifies where hazards could enter food during its preparation for market and steps that can be taken to prevent hazards. In addition to HACCP, the federal agencies are implementing several presidential food safety initiatives. The first is a six-step strategic plan to minimize the risk of food-borne pathogens in the U.S. food supply. The second initiative aims to upgrade the safety of domestic and imported produce. A third deals with egg safety and imports. On August 1998, the President also established a Council on Food Safety to create a strategic plan, to coordinate all federal agencies' budgets for food safety activities and to respond to a National Academy of Sciences report. The 106th Congress debated a number of food safety proposals. Several bills would have established a national food safety program to ensure the safety of food consumed in the United States. One would increase the federal government's authority to recall unsafe meat and poultry products. Others would ensure the safety of produce and of imports. Bills also were introduced to consolidate into a single agency all food safety inspection and labeling activities. Other bills would require mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods (GM foods), or would require all GM foods be reviewed by FDA either separately or under the ¨food additive¨ category, or establish an information program about GM foods. [read report]
Topics: Agriculture, Risk & Reform