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Concerns Mount Over Safety of Imported Foods

posted on July 20, 2007

Though its version of the Farm Bill has not emerged from committee yet, the Senate also is working on farm policy reforms.

This week, a Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee voted to increase funding for the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, by $186 million. The plan would include more than $48 million for new food safety measures.

But, the FDA itself raised a few eyebrows this week when it announced plans to close half of its laboratories.

Concerns Mount Over Safety of Imported Foods

The ability of the FDA to monitor the nation's food supply has been sharply criticized recently because of several high-profile cases of illness and deaths traced to contaminated food, including several incidents involving imports from China.

This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it plans to close 7 of its 13 laboratories. F.D.A. commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee "[the closures] are for one purpose and one purpose only: to bring the FDA laboratory infrastructure into the 21st century."

But, the chairman of the subcommittee, Democratic Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan called the decision, "ill-conceived" and said it "likely would expose American consumers to even more danger from unsafe foods, particularly imports."

In April, the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety reported that just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods were inspected — yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption.

Against that backdrop, President Bush announced Wednesday the establishment of a high-level panel that would make recommendations to ensure the safety of imported foods. The White House denied that the move was aimed primarily at China.



Tags: food food safety news trade