The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing next week to examine food safety issues in the wake of a pending bill that could have wide-ranging effects on even low-risk commodity production.
The hearing is set for Thursday, July 16, at 10 a.m., and should be Web cast through the Committee Web page, http://agriculture.house.gov.
Prompted by a series of high-profile and, in some cases, unexplainable contamination scares in foods from tomatoes to cookie dough, both Congress and the Obama Administration are working hard on new measures to improve food safety.
H.R. 2749, which was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in June, would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new authority to regulate the entire spectrum of the agricultural and food system, in many cases without appropriate thresholds or accountability.
For instance, the bill would require FDA to set standards for safe growing, harvesting and storage of raw agricultural commodities, including on-farm regulation, and would dramatically expand FDA’s access to facility and farm records.
NAWG staff has held multiple meetings on this legislation over the past few weeks and continues to work with coalition partners and agriculture leaders on the Hill to assess its impact and propose reasonable changes. More on that work is available at www.wheatworld.org/issues/foodsafety
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rolled out a number of key findings from a recently-formed Food Safety Working Group.
The group, created in March to advise the Administration on how to upgrade the food safety system, announced three principles for their work: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.
Specific action steps that will be implemented include
- targeting salmonella contamination by developing tougher standards for eggs, poultry and turkey;
- addressing E. coli by stepping up enforcement in beef facilities and developing new industry guidance for leafy greens, melons and tomatoes;
- building a new national trace back and response system; and
- strengthening the organization of federal food safety functions.
The Working Group is chaired by Sebelius and Vilsack and encompasses work of the FDA, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce and State; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the White House.
Additional information about the Food Safety Working Group, including a fact sheet on key findings released this week, is at www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov