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FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. STUPAK. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for the kind words. As I wrap up my 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, this is a good bill in which to wrap up a career. I first introduced food safety legislation along with Mr. Dingell and Mr. Pallone and now-Senator Brownback in 1997. For 14 years we have been fighting to try to update our Nation's food safety laws.

And then as chair of Oversight and Investigations, we have held over 13 hearings on food-borne illnesses from spinach, peanut butter, jalapenos, and most recently tainted eggs. Why was all this necessary? As has been noted, our food laws have not been updated since 1938. And we know more and more of our foods are coming from different sources and different countries. But this year and each year approximately 77 million Americans become ill because of food-borne illnesses, 325,000 are hospitalized, and up to 5,000 Americans will die, some of our most vulnerable Americans, such as children and senior citizens, those whose immune systems have been weakened or are not fully developed.

But if you are a young child and you do survive, what kind of life do you have after you have spent time in a hospital getting a new kidney? You face a lifetime of medication and bankruptcy of your family. We must act now to pass this food safety bill. This bill contains many good provisions, including the trace-back provision, which is designed to make it easier to prevent and respond to outbreaks in food-borne illnesses.

This also has mandatory recall. Most Americans are shocked to know that the FDA does not have the right to recall food or unsafe drugs in this country. They do not have the right to have that recall, especially on food. So this will now make it mandatory. The FDA can remove tainted food as soon as possible. Still, despite all these improvements, more has to be done to protect Americans.

The FDA needs subpoena power. It is probably one of the few regulatory agencies that doesn't have subpoena power. We lost that when it went to the Senate. But if you are going to trace back, if you are going to get the records, if you are going to find where the food comes from, let's give the regulatory agency the power they need. Because corporate America unfortunately too often hides their records from us.

We need an adequate funding source. For this legislation to be successful, we have to have an adequate funding source, as we had in the House but was removed in the Senate. And country of origin label. More and more of our food, especially this time of the year in the winter months, comes from other countries. We need to know exactly where those sources of food come from. So I urge the next Congress to make these improvements.

And a word of caution. Without this bill and greater improvements to this bill, we cannot fully protect Americans from food-borne illnesses, either accidentally or those intentionally put forth by America's enemies. And make no mistake about it, our enemies will exploit our weak regulatory system when they know they can harm so many Americans through food-borne illnesses.

So I hope my colleagues today will join me in supporting this legislation.

It's a great piece of legislation. I would like to thank my colleagues who have worked so hard on this over the years with me, including Ms. DeLauro of Connecticut, but especially the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who have worked with us, especially Chairman Dingell, Chairman Waxman, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Upton, and Mr. Barton.


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