It's a sad realization. Over the past few years, we've had to watch an all too commonly muddled bureaucracy and the resulting lack of trust in government taint our nation’s food supply system. More and more cases of food borne illness such as salmonella have cluttered the news cycle and sown distrust in both the FDA and the USDA. As a result, Americans have begun to cross entire categories of ingredients off of their weekly grocery lists. But some recently introduced legislation is seeking to change all that by bringing transparency to our nation's food industry and reinstating America's faith in food safety.A new bill introduced by Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) seeks to provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new enforcement tools to effectively regulate our food supply system. According to the Washington Post, the bill would provide the FDA with the authority to recall tainted food, the ability to "quarantine" suspect food, and the power to impose civil penalties and increased criminal sanctions on violators.
Bringing Lucidity to the Food and Drug Administration
The bill would also do a lot to make both food producers and private food inspectors answerable when they are aware of a food contamination risk. Under the proposed legislation, private food handlers would be sanctioned by law upon discovery of a failure to report the presence of pathogens in their food. The legislation would also hold manufacturers accountable by requiring them to document all steps taken to prevent food borne illnesses and to provide those records to federal regulators.
The Peanut Butter Fiasco
Widespread concern over salmonella reemerged this year with the well publicized peanut butter fiasco that began in Georgia. In response, Congress introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act to deal with a growing bureaucracy, which has continually impeded the management of our nation's food safety and inhibited communication between the FDA and the USDA.
The proposed legislation would likely quiet the public's growing unrest with the government's failure to adequately manage the food supply system. Amazingly, federal authorities have asserted that Peanut Corporation of America was aware of the contamination of their peanuts before shipping them to peanut manufacturers who then used them in their end products. The pathogen found was linked to more than 900 illnesses and nine deaths in fall and winter and the outbreak triggered the largest food recall in U.S. history. One hopes that a new fear of criminal prosecution might deter similar business practices.