Mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) would be required for processed foods, including meats, that are inspected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under proposed FDA food safety reform legislation by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI). The “Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009” would require food manufacturers to identify the country in which final processing occurred. The legislation would also require food manufacturers to identify the country-of-origin for all ingredients on their website. Mandatory COOL would also cover all produce.

FDA Food Safety Reform — The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to consider the “Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009,” a major Food & Drug Administration (FDA) food safety reform bill, this month. The legislation would grant FDA new authority and resources. The committee provided these highlights of the bill:

  • Creates an up-to-date registry for all food facilities serving American consumers; requires all facilities operating in the United States or importing food to the United States to register with the FDA annually.
  • Generates resources to support FDA oversight of food safety; requires registered facilities to pay an annual registration fee of $1,000 to generate revenue for food safety activities at FDA.
  • Increases inspections of food facilities; sets a minimum inspection frequency for all registered facilities. High-risk facilities would be inspected at least once every six to 18 months; low-risk facilities would be inspected at least once every 18 months to three years. Warehouses that store food would be inspected at least once every three to four years. Refusing, impeding or delaying an inspection is prohibited.
  • Improves traceability of food; enhances FDA’s ability to trace the origin of tainted food in the event of an outbreak of food-borne illness. FDA would be required to issue regulations that require food producers, manufacturers, processors, transporters, and holders to maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food, and to link that history with the subsequent distribution history of the food.
  • Enhances the safety of imported food; as an additional layer of protection, FDA can require food to be certified as meeting all U.S. food safety requirements by the government of the country from which the article originated or by certain qualified third parties.
  • Provides FDA new authority to issue mandatory recalls of tainted foods. Strengthens criminal penalties and establishes civil monetary penalties that FDA may impose on food facilities that fail to comply with safety requirements.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), during a hearing on the bill this week, stated that the Congress needs to consider banning the use of antibiotics for animals. This issue may be considered by the committee.

Congress Returns — Congress returned last week from its Memorial Day recess. It has a full agenda for the summer session. Major items will include fiscal year 2010 appropriation bills, health care reform, global climate change, FDA food safety reform, and the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.