If House leaders have their way, the US food supply chain will soon be more transparent, food facility inspections will be more frequent and food producers will be required to help prevent food-borne illnesses like last fall’s Salmonella outbreak caused by tainted peanuts from Georgia.
Henry Waxman, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee and compatriot John Dingell have introduced legislation that would empower the FDA to, among other things, recall tainted food, quarantine suspect food and impose civil or criminal penalties on violators.
The bill would require growers, manufacturers and food handlers to identify contamination risks, act to prevent them, and document such activities for the Feds. It would also require that private labs used by food manufacturers report to the Feds when they detect pathogens in food products.
“This (legislation) has been needed for decades,” Erik Olson told the Washington Post. Olson, who oversees food and consumer product safety issues at the Pew Charitable Trust, added “we’re still operating under a food and drug law signed by Teddy Roosevelt.”
Consumers including the Big O himself had grown increasingly nervous about food safety following outbreaks of E. coli in California spinach and salmonella in Mexican jalapeno peppers.
But things really hit the fan last fall when numerous deficiencies in the US food handling system were exposed by the peanut caper in which the Peanut Corporation of America shipped Salmonella-laced peanuts which found their way into thousands of products, resulting in 900 illnesses and 9 deaths.
In the aftermath, investigators determined that federal inspectors had not stepped foot inside PCA’s offending Georgia facility for years, and that a private lab used by PCA found contamination on multiple occasions but never reported its findings to regulators.