The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) passed unanimously S. 510, “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act,” introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judd Gregg (R-NH). This legislation places more emphasis on prevention of food-borne illness and gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new and modern authorities to address food safety issues. The bill includes:
• Hazard analyses and preventive controls: Requires all facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food to have a risk-based preventive control plan to address identified hazards and prevent adulteration; gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation.
• Imports: Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food.
• Inspection: Requires FDA to inspect all food facilities more frequently, including inspections of high-risk facilities at least once a year and inspections of other facilities at least once every four years.
• Mandatory recall: Gives FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall of a food product if the food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death and a company had failed to voluntarily recall the product upon FDA’s request.
• Administrative detention: Gives FDA the authority to administratively detain any food that is misbranded or adulterated under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
• Increases FDA resources: Increases funding for FDA’s food safety activities through increased appropriations and targeted fees. During consideration of the bill, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) offered an amendment that would ban the use of antibiotics for various uses for livestock. Senator Reed withdrew the amendment and said he plans to address this issue at another time.
Justice Department-USDA Announce Competition Workshops — The Department of Justice and USDA announced the dates and locations of a series of joint public workshops that will explore competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The goals of the workshops are to “promote dialogue among interested parties and foster learning with respect to the appropriate legal and economic analyses of these issues, as well as to listen to and learn from parties with experience in the agriculture sector.” The current schedule is:
• March 12 – Ankeny, IA: An introduction to the workshop series, but will also focus on issues facing crop producers, including seed technology, vertical integration, market transparency and buyer power.
• March 21 – Normal, AL: This workshop will focus on the poultry industry, considering production contracts, concentration and buyer power.
• June 7 – Madison, WI: The dairy industry, including concentration, marketplace transparency, and vertical integration, will be the focus of this workshop.
• Aug. 26 – Fort Collins, CO: Focus on the livestock industry and will address beef, hog and other animal sectors and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and concentration.
• Dec. 8 – Washington, DC: This workshop will look at the discrepancies between the prices received by producers and the prices paid by consumers. Discussions from previous workshops will be incorporated into the analysis of agriculture markets nationally. Each workshop is expected to feature keynote speakers, general expert panels, and break-out panels that will address more narrowly-focused issues. The public will have an opportunity to participate in each of the workshops.
USDA Announces Pork Purchases — USDA announced it intends to purchase $50 million of pork products for federal food nutrition assistance programs. According to USDA, “The pork purchase will help farmers greatly reduce their sow herd in a market where production costs continue to exceed market value.” Last September, USDA purchased $30 million in pork products.
P. Scott Shearer