The Food and Drug Administration might actually be able to protect us from dangerous food if Congress passes a bill recently circulated by six powerful members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The draft legislation would finally empower the FDA to quarantine suspect foods and slap violators with both civil fines and criminal charges.
Congress may soon help the 1.76 million consumers anxiously waiting for their $40 digital TV converter coupons. According to Congress Daily, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is drafting legislation to push back the February 17 digital television transition deadline as requested last week by both Consumers Union and the incoming Obama Administration.
Investigators from the House Energy and Commerce Committee spent two weeks snooping around China and probably haven’t eaten since. Their investigation revealed a tattered regulatory framework, unable to protect Chinese citizens, let alone foreigners. Among the disturbing facts uncovered:
House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) has drafted a bill that will dramatically alter the way the FDA handles imported food. Under the draft bill, food imports would be limited to ports clustered near FDA field labs, and would need to display a label identifying the country of origin. Exporters would be subject to a strict new certification program established by the Department of Health and Human Services. And that is just the start.
Congress has questions about an internal FDA memo calling for the sacking of 196 food safety analysts. The memo, titled “New Organization Staffing,” was released to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of an ongoing investigation into the contamination of spinach, peanut butter, and other assorted items. The FDA currently inspects less than 1% of regulated imports. Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent a letter to the FDA expressing their displeasure with the cuts.
- “This number represents 37 percent of the total number of lab analysts currently working in the Office of Regulatory Affairs laboratories,” the letter states. “This slashing of analysts comes after an already 24 percent reduction in lab analysts between 2003 and 2007. To say the least, these numbers are deeply disturbing.”
The analyst cuts are part of a larger FDA plan to close 7 of the 13 labs that test samples from inspections. The FDA is willing to reconsider its position, but it first wants Congress to pony-up more cash. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER