Reps. Reintroduce Bill to Increase Oversight, Close Deadly FDA Loophole
Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) recently reintroduced legislation to secure our nation's food system and close a dangerous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight loophole. This timely legislation comes on the heels of a salmonella outbreak surrounding the distribution of contaminated peanut butter resulting in the death of nine people, and sickening more than 600.
Currently, domestic food suppliers, importers, and private testing labs, are not required to report all testing data, leaving the FDA in the dark when a shipment fails to meet U.S. standards. This missed opportunity denies the FDA the ability to collect data for its risk-based screening system. Most importantly, it leaves open the possibility a nefarious supplier, domestic or international, could "shop around" for a lab willing to give it favorable results to gain entry into the U.S. food supply.
"The recent outbreak of salmonella underscores the deadly consequences of a lack of oversight of our food supply," said Roskam. "Every year 76 million people become sick, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die from food borne illnesses caused by contamination. Many of these deaths, including those recently caused by contaminated peanut butter, are avoidable. My legislation will close the most dangerous loophole, provide protection for whistleblowers in the industry, enhance penalties for violators and impose stricter safety standards to ensure a safe and secure food supply."
"Parents have a right to purchase safe food for their children," Congressman Kirk said. "Contaminated foods should not end up in America's shopping baskets. From cookies to snack mix to pet food, more than 2,500 products have been recalled in the latest incident alone. For the sake of American families, this dangerous loophole must be closed. I'm pleased to join with Congressman Roskam on this important legislation."
As co-chair of the House US-China Working Group, Congressman Kirk led the effort to address the stream of tainted food imports from China. In August 2007, Kirk won commitments from the Chinese government to allow FDA access to manufacturing facilities around the country. In 2008, Kirk worked with the State Department to secure space in Beijing to house FDA personnel and worked with the FDA to deploy its first team to China later in the year.
Media reports show the Peanut Corporation of America, the source of the recent outbreak, actually found salmonella contamination on 12 occasions in the past two years. However, the company still sold the products after shopping around for a favorable test result. While it is illegal to ship contaminated products, suppliers and labs are not required to submit data of failed tests. This dangerous loophole caused more than 500 people in Illinois and 42 other states to become ill with salmonella and in 8 cases have been linked to death.
The legislation also gives the FDA the authority to initiate mandatory recalls of tainted food products.
Roskam and Kirk introduced similar legislation in April of 2008, nine months before the salmonella outbreak that killed eight