U.S. Sen. David Vitter today issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed legislation that will improve the safety of seafood imported into the United States. The bill includes language secured by Vitter in April to ensure that the Louisiana oyster industry is not harmed by overly broad regulations from the Food and Drug Administration or other federal agencies.
"This bill's passage is a huge win not only for oyster producers, but for everyone in Louisiana and across the country who enjoys the freedom of eating fresh oysters," said Vitter. "When this debate began, my colleagues and I made it clear that heavy-handed regulations were not the answer, and we didn't relent in the fight against the FDA's typical bureaucratic approach of more regulations and red tape. We fought for the common-sense provisions included in this food safety bill so that we could ensure that federal agencies wouldn't be able to cripple the oyster industry with the stroke of a pen."
Last year, the FDA attempted to put forth a rule requiring that all Gulf oysters harvested during warm-weather months undergo processing before distribution to consumers. Industry leaders contended that the costs of such a rule would force many oyster producers out of business and that increased consumer education was a better solution. In response, Vitter and eight bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Gulf Oyster Industry Jobs Protection Act to block the FDA's rule, and parts of the manager's amendment to the current food safety bill were adapted from the language of the Vitter bill.
Specifically, the measures in the bill would require the FDA or the Department of Health and Human Services to submit detailed studies three months in advance to justify any new rules governing oyster harvesting. In addition, those studies would be subject to an independent review by the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office to ensure their accuracy. The bill also includes language to prohibit "port shopping," a tactic foreign seafood producers use to find ports with loose safety requirements to sell seafood that would otherwise be rejected, as well as requirements that foreign importers follow "equivalence" standards to ensure that food safety processes meet FDA requirements.