G.M.A. criticizes F.D.A. discussion draft on food safety

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Bob Brackett, senior vice-president and chief science and regulatory affairs officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, lashed out at a discussion draft of Food and Drug Administration legislation, saying it would create "unnecessary regulatory burdens, over-broad enforcement power, and would likely result in a further increase in food prices."

The discussion draft of the legislation, known as the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2008, was introduced April 17 by House Committee on Energy and Commerce chairman John D. Dingell, and is meant to stimulate discussion about how to provide adequate funding and authority for the F.D.A. to ensure the safety of the nation’s food, drug, medical device, and cosmetic supply. In addition to Mr. Dingell, Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and Bart Stupak, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, were included on the memorandum.

While noting food safety as a No. 1 priority for the food and beverage industry, Mr. Brackett was not in favor of some of the language contained in the discussion draft, specifically that involving fees put on manufacturers.

"The user fees proposed in the draft are unfair food taxes imposed on food manufacturers that will only work to arbitrarily increase the cost of food for consumers at the worst time possible — when thousands of Americans are already struggling to hold on to their homes and pay their already skyrocketing grocery bills," Mr. Brackett said. "New rigid, regulatory provisions in the draft will stifle industry innovation, and broad new enforcement powers are unnecessary, burdensome and will be untenably costly for the F.D.A. We are supportive of reforms that will truly result in safer foods for our consumers, but think there are better, more efficient and effective ways to accomplish this goal than those outlined in this draft bill.

"It is critical that realistic, effective legislation be passed within this year that results in a true partnership between Congress, the food industry and federal agencies working in tandem to improve, modernize and strengthen our nation’s food safety system. G.M.A. and its member companies are committed to achieving this goal."

Within food safety, the discussion draft contains language that would address specific programs such as creating an up-to-date registry of all food facilities serving American consumers, generating resources to support F.D.A. oversight of food safety, restricting entry of non-certified food imports, and requiring country-of-origin labeling and disclosure.

"The discussion draft raises challenging policy questions, and we anticipate a vigorous debate on these issues," Mr. Dingell and others wrote in the memorandum.

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