If your business relies on the importation of food overseen by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and you work hard to makes sure imports comply with FDA regulations, then you’ll be interested to know that President Barack Obama recently proposed the creation of an agency to make sure that the food Americans eat is safe.
Ken Lehat, a Customs Broker and International Freight Forwarding Company of New York says, “I believe this is a very ambitious undertaking. The FDA has invested greatly in the Food Safety Modernization Act. I can’t imagine a single food safety agency happening anytime soon.”
Right now the Department of Agriculture handles all inspections of meat, eggs and poultry, while the FDA handles almost everything else. Logistically speaking, this “split” causes confusion, according to the Obama Administration.
“A single federal food safety agency would provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability that will enhance both prevention of and responses to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses,” the President’s recent budget proposal says, according to Reuters.
Over the past few years, there have been many outbreaks of illnesses linked to foreign imported foods. For example, in 2013, there were 153 Hepatitis A cases linked to a frozen berry product sold at Costco. That time, the culprits were pomegranate seeds from Turkey. In another case, four people died after eating Listeria-contaminated cheese from Italy.
The new agency FDA would consolidate food safety oversight duties from Agriculture, the FDA and other agencies into a single agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It would be independent of the FDA and, according to Reuters, “would be responsible for food safety inspections, enforcement, applied research and responses to food poisoning outbreaks.”
The President’s proposal reflects provisions of the Safe Food Act of 2015, which was introduced last month by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
But not everyone agrees with the proposal. “HHS is a massive organization,” said Christopher Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America.. “A new food safety agency would be lost among the other priorities of the department, and would likely not receive recognition or resources necessary for it to be effective.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., also opposes it. “In this tough economy, the last thing producers and consumers need is more red tape,” Roberts said.
As it stands, 48 million people, or one in six Americans, have foodborne illnesses every year and 3,000 people die every year, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The FDA has been working on implementing stricter standards for all imported foods. However, the FDA currently inspects only two percent of the food that enters through U.S. borders, so most of the responsibility falls on the food importer to make sure the foreign producer is following health standards.
You can see more about Ken Lehat by visiting his website at: http://kenlehat.com.
Ken Lehat & Associates Inc.
Customs Brokers/International Freight Forwarders
145 Hook Creek Blvd
Valley Stream, NY 11581
Or, by calling Ken at (516) 532-7259.