Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) have introduced bills aimed at addressing weaknesses exposed by recent Salmonella saintpaul outbreaks in produce.
Obama says his bill, “Improving Food-borne Illness Surveillance and Response Act of 2008,” would enhance surveillance systems by improving the collection, analysis, reporting and usefulness of data. It would establish a working group of food-safety experts to develop an annual report and strategic plan to fix deficiencies in the surveillance systems setting up a grant program for state and local agencies to expand food safety capacity. It would also provide for easier and more rapid tests for identifying pathogens, better information sharing across agencies and better efforts to recruit and retain a multidisciplinary workforce.
Meanwhile, Durbin introduced “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.” The bill would require domestic food facilities to write hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) plans; FDA to set commodity-specific standards for fresh produce; high-risk imports to be certified as meeting U.S. standards; and FDA to set up an accreditation system for third-party inspectors of food facilities. It would also require more frequent inspections, with specific timelines for high-risk facilities. All samples tested for compliance purposes would need to be conducted either by an FDA lab or a lab accredited by an FDA recognizing accrediting body. Along with mandatory recall authority, FDA could suspend a food facility's registration if there is a reasonable probability a food would cause serious adverse health consequences or death, according to Food Chemical News.