Hearing of the House Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce - H.R. 3610, The Food and Drug Import Saftey Act
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REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank the chairman for calling the hearing to discuss all of our issues with FDA oversight and the food and drug imports into the country.
This is indeed a critical public safety issue as well as a national security concern, and when we hear the reports, as we've heard in recent days about the episodes around the country, we do become keenly aware of the potential for terrorists to exploit these weaknesses.
The combined efforts of the food industry and the regulatory agencies are often credited with making the U.S. food supply the safest in the world and we know that we have at least 15 different agencies administering over 30 different rules related to food safety.
And in spite of this widespread approach, we have a tremendous track record of success, and those involved in that process are to be commended. We know that the FDA is responsible for ensuring that all domestic and imported food products -- except most of the meats and poultry -- are safe, nutritious, wholesome and accurately labeled.
Although all imported food products must meet the same safety standards as domestically produced foods, international trade rules permit a foreign country to apply its own differing regulatory authorities and institutional systems in meeting such standards under an internationally recognized concept known as "equivalence.
As Americans consume increasing amounts of imported food and drink, and as U.S. producers are demanding more overseas ingredients, we see an increase in this volume.
Globalization is playing a part; it's tripled our imports in the past decade. I was impressed by the stat that the FDA received more than 10 million imported food entries in '06, and compared that with less than 2.8 entries in '96. That is an indication of the volume that is before the agency. Just over 1 percent of these shipments were physically examined in fiscal year 2006, compared with 1.7 percent in fiscal year 1996.
According to the USDA, the U.S. is expected to import a record 70 billion in ag products this year.
The legislation before us today causes some concerns to me with the user fees, the trade implications, new labeling, the negative impact on small business with these user fees and those being passed on to the consumer and, of course, the bureaucracy that is there.
I'm also concerned about the restriction of ports of entry and what that would do to food plants that are not in close proximity to a metropolitan area.
But, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the discussions and I thank the committee for the efforts spent on the issue.
I yield back.
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