Bush establishes import safety panel

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — President Bush has formed a government panel that will recommend safety practices and improve import policing to guarantee the safety of food and other products that are imported into the United States.

"I’ve called together key members of my Cabinet to review the procedures in place, the regulations in place, the practices in place to make sure that our food supply remains the safest in the world," President Bush said. "The world is changing, and in order to make sure that we can continue to have the confidence of our consumers, we will continually review practices and procedures to assure the American consumer."

Michael Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, will chair the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety. The task group will report back to President Bush in 60 days with a strategy to review procedures and regulations in place to make sure they are still effective. The panel will work with other countries and companies around the world to ensure practices are satisfactory.

"It’s important for the American people to know their government is on top of the situation and constantly reviewing procedures and practices," President Bush said.

Pressures on regulatory agencies were a topic of discussion emphasized at a hearing by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

A concern about import safety has risen as numerous imports from China, including tainted melamine and seafood with unapproved drugs, have failed to meet standards.

Yet White House spokesman Tony Snow said the establishment of the panel was not specifically directed at Chinese concerns.

"This is in fact a normal piece of business," Mr. Snow said. "We get food imports from 150 countries around the world. It’s important to monitor them all."

Officials from the United States and China are meeting at the end of July to discuss the safety of China’s seafood exports.

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