Monday, June 04, 2007

One Presidential Candidate Is Calling For Food Safety Reform

Of the 30 or so declared candidates for the White House next year, so far only one has chosen to make food safety part of their campaign platform:
"There are countless problems with our current monitoring program including outdated practices, internal fragmentation and inadequate resources that have resulted in a situation where we simply do not know what kind of food or feed material is coming in from overseas and what kind of risks it poses to our livestock and our safety. It is tragic that we have seen again and again how vulnerable our nation's food supplies are without proper regulation and inspection and yet we haven't learned any lessons from our past mistakes. I am extremely concerned about the recent instances of food contamination and I strongly urge the FDA and the USDA to create a proper food safety program, especially when it comes to imported food and feed materials."1
The candidate, in a telephone interview with a New York Times columnist:
"We've had a long history of problems with food safety because of the divided system. ... We need a new system of food safety prevention."2
This candidate would:
  • Double the FDA's budget over five years.
  • Double their number of inspectors.
  • Mandate a minimum frequency for inspections.
  • Provide mandatory recall authority.
There are a number of issues I care about, but food safety has been elbowing its way to the top lately. I'm not being altruistic here; I care for selfish reasons. I care because I and my family eat peanut butter, spinach, tomatoes, and seafood. We eat eggs, cheese, and the flesh of run-of-the-mill (if only) factory-farmed livestock (which includes so called "organic" brands such as Horizon, Aurora, and private-labeled products from these dairies).

Those statements up there? They're one way to get my vote.
1 Senator Clinton Urges Administration to Strengthen Food Safety
In her May 4th letter to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, she reveals another new (for me) fact in the melamine case:
"With respect to melamine tainting, the FDA has admitted being unable to ascertain how long the United States has imported food and feed materials from China with melamine or other chemicals not meant for consumption. In fact, the USDA also cannot tell us the degree to which the contaminated feed has entered the food chain through livestock consumption. The fact that it has taken more than a month to uncover even the most basic facts about the melamine tainting, including where the tainted products have been consumed, is troubling."
2 Who’s Watching What We Eat?, Marian Burros, May 16, NYTs.

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