Congress will pass a new law to overhaul the antiquated U.S. food safety system by the end of the year, according to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

The first major reform of the system in 50 years could be followed by another close look at how meat and poultry are inspected, and the changes may create friction with trade partners, said the chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

"I have every confidence that we are going to pass food safety legislation and this legislation is going to get to the president for a signature and that's going to happen this year," said DeLauro, who was speaking at the recent Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit.

"Trade should never trump public health," she said.

DeLauro, an advocate for tougher food safety laws, said her subcommittee will hold hearings in the next couple of months to examine whether or not new trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. should include food safety provisions.

"We need to do something before the agreement is put into place that guarantees that the product and its process and its manufacture is equal to the process that exists in the U.S.," she said. DeLauro's subcommittee effectively banned U.S. imports of Chinese chicken for two years, sparking a WTO complaint.

Lawmakers next need to look at the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is charged with inspection of meat, poultry and eggs, DeLauro said.

An independent expert panel should examine whether the USDA food system needs reform, following a similar review of the FDA which made recommendations to Congress, she said. The panel should address potential conflicts faced by the USDA, which promotes as well regulates food, she said.
-- Reuters