By a vote of 215 to 144 on Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, enacting large-scale changes to the nation’s food safety system. United Fresh Produce Association Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther issued the following statement on the legislation, which will now head to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature:
“For the past four years, the United Fresh Produce Association has been among the most vocal supporters of comprehensive modernization of the food safety system in the United States, working with members of Congress and the Bush and Obama Administrations, and testifying before House and Senate committees more than 10 times. The legislation passed today on Capitol Hill ensures a number of important provisions that we have long supported, including implementation of preventive controls for production and processing of specific fruits and vegetables when shown necessary by a risk-based, scientific analysis by FDA, will be integrated into the food safety framework moving forward.
“The good in this bill, however, is still accompanied by the bad, and the Food Safety Modernization Act still contains an amendment from Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina that threatens the health and well-being of a nation of consumers by exempting some producers and processors based only on the size of their business, their geographic location, or to whom they sell their products. This inclusion of exemptions based on non-scientific qualifications will limit the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards. We remain fearful that this profound error will come back to haunt Congress, public health agencies, and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions, but more importantly, we are fearful of what may slip through the food safety loopholes created by the Tester/Hagan Amendment and adversely affect consumers in the United States.
“United Fresh is confident that the Food Safety Modernization Act will do much good; it is, after all, the first overhaul of the food safety system in seven decades. however, the House and the Senate have both missed an opportunity to engage with one another to remedy the loopholes created by the Tester/Hagan Amendment.
“Today is a day of mixed feelings for our members who have worked long and hard to pass food safety reforms, as this remains a job that is very much unfinished. Moving forward, as we always do, United Fresh will continue to work with our allies in the new Congress, voicing our strong support for uniform, risk-based food safety standards to which all can be held accountable, regardless of size.”