Whitehouse: Food Safety Bill will Protect Rhode Islanders
Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which will improve safety procedures and controls over the nation’s food supply.
This legislation will provide for a stronger recall and inspection system, improve record keeping, help better track the distribution of food deemed unsafe, and provide for oversight of food imported into the United States. The bill passed by a vote of 73 to 25, and will be sent to the House for consideration.
Praising its passage, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) submitted a statement for the record in which he said, “Like so many Rhode Islanders, I have been appalled by the stories of deaths and serious illnesses from seemingly benign foods such as peanut butter and spinach. These are foods we bring into our homes, expecting them to nourish our families. We shouldn’t have to worry that they might make our children sick. American families need to know that their government is protecting the food supply.”
The full text of Whitehouse’s statement is below.
MR. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. I commend Senator Durbin, Senator Harkin, and the many other Senators who have worked so hard for so long on this important legislation. It is long past time that we make improvements to our food safety procedures in the United States, and we can see by the diversity of interests that have come together to support this bill—from industry to farm to consumer groups—that the time to address this issue is now.
Like so many Rhode Islanders, I have been appalled by the stories of deaths and serious illnesses from seemingly benign foods such as peanut butter and spinach. These are foods we bring into our homes, expecting them to nourish our families. We shouldn’t have to worry that they might make our children sick. American families need to know that their government is protecting the food supply.
This bill goes a long way towards improving the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspection and recall system. First, the bill improves our ability to prevent food safety emergencies through better record keeping, hazard analysis, controls, and food safety plans. These standards are also applied to imported foods, which is increasingly important in our global economy. Second, FDA’s ability to react to food-borne illness outbreaks is significantly enhanced by increasing inspection and surveillance, making food more traceable in order to more quickly pinpoint the source of an outbreak. Furthermore, the bill grants the FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall of food if a company refuses to participate in a voluntary recall. Finally, this bill enhances FDA’s capability to protect the American food supply from terrorist threats and from intentional contamination through building cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security at our ports.
I am very pleased that all of this is accomplished while protecting small farmers and producers. Rhode Island is very proud of its small farms, local produce, and the wonderful farmers markets that can be found throughout the state. Our farmers are proud to feed families in Rhode Island and the surrounding states, and I know they do everything possible to ensure the food they sell is safe. I thank Senator Tester for his work on a compromise to protect farmers like those in Rhode Island, and throughout nation, who believe in the value of locally grown food.
It has been disappointing that the process to bring this bill about has taken so long. The bill’s sponsors have been trying to bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote for months, during which time the outbreak of salmonella in eggs made the need the improve our food inspection system even more clear. This is not a perfect bill, but it is a necessary one. Once it is passed, we must continue to build upon it. The matter of our families’ safety is not a partisan issue; ensuring food safety is a fundamental function of our federal government.
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