IB10099 - Food Safety and Protection Issues in the 107th Congress
12-Jun-2002; Donna U. Vogt and Jean Rawson; 18 p.
Update: August 28, 2002
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
On July 26, 2002, the House passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (H.R. 5005) which contains a provision to transfer to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the border and point-of-entry inspection function of USDA?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), but specifically exempts APHIS?s quarantine activities. On July 25, 2002, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs approved an amended version of homeland security legislation (S. 2452) that was earlier reported. It would transfer to the DHS the portion of APHIS that administers laws relating to agricultural quarantine inspections at points of entry. The House bill also would transfer the Plum Island Animal Research Center to the new department.
Also on July 26, 2002, Senator Tom Harkin introduced legislation (S. 2803) to have the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services notified of any adulterated or misbranded meat, poultry, or food products if a person other than a household consumer has reason to believe that the food could cause illness or injury. The bill would also provide the Secretaries with voluntary and mandatory recall and civil monetary penalty authorities. An identical bill (H.R. 5230) was introduced by Representative Lynn Rivers on July 25, 2002.
On May 13, 2002, Senator Ted Kennedy introduced legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration to approve antimicrobial animal drugs only if the manufacturer can demonstrate that there is a reasonable certainty that their use in animal feeds at subtherapeutic levels does not contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance in humans, among other things (S. 2508). On February 27, 2002, Representative Sherrod Brown introduced a similar bill that would also regulate antibiotics in animal feed (H.R. 3804).
Abstract: Several federal agencies are involved in food safety. The Food and Drug Administra-tion (FDA), in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), sets and enforces standards for safety of all domestic and im-ported foods, except for meat, poultry, and certain egg products. These are under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agricul-ture (USDA). The FDA also ensures that all animal drugs and feeds are safe, are labeled properly, and produce no human health hazard when used in food-producing animals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits (tolerances) on the amounts of pesticide residues that can be found in or on food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also part of DHHS, tracks food-borne illness incidents and outbreaks, and provides data and information to the other food safety agencies.
Congress maintains close oversight of the FDA?s food safety activities, particularly its efforts to address the issue of microbiological contamination, which is responsible for an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. At issue for many years has been (1) whether the FDA has sufficient statutory authority over the food industry to bring about continued improve-ments in food safety and to take enforcement actions, and (2) whether the FDA has suffi-cient resources and personnel to inspect the volume of food it regulates.
In addition to these ongoing concerns, the terrorist attacks and anthrax scares of fall 2001 have raised worries about the FDA?s (and USDA?s) readiness to prevent and re-spond to potential bioterrorist attacks on the nation?s food supply. In the weeks following the attacks, Con-gress added funds for anti-terrorism activities to the law making FY2002 appropriations for the USDA and the FDA (P.L. 107-76). In addition, on January 10, 2002, the President signed a $20 billion Defense supplemental bill into law that includes $328 million for USDA and $151.1 million for FDA food protection activities.
On June 12, 2002, the President signed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-188, H.R. 3448/S. 1765). The bill autho-rizes $545 million for food protection (out of a total of $2.369 billion for bioterrorism response). The bill contains $130.25 million in appropriations for HHS and requires FDA to (1) register food processors and inspect their records, (2) detain adulterated food, and (3) take a number of steps to ensure the safety of imported foods (among other provisions). The bill authorizes $415 million in appropria-tions for USDA, to be used for enhanced border inspection of imports of plant and animal origin, lab biosecurity upgrades, and increased research.
The Administration?s proposal for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS-H.R. 5005), and a similar Senate proposal (S. 2452), do not include provisions addressing protection of the food supply. H.R. 5005 was passed by the House on July 26; the Senate bill, S. 2452, as amended by the Lieberman Substitute, is still being considered. They both would transfer USDA?s border inspec-tion activities of plants and animals to the new DHS. In recent testimony, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge stated that reorganization of federal food safety agencies is under con-sideration for future action. [read report]