Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced legislation to strengthen the FDA’s ability to monitor and inspect goods that enter the United States from abroad by imposing a fee on companies and countries exporting food products to the United States. Companies and countries exporting to the US could pay up to $20 each time they bring seafood, fruits and vegetables into the country. This proposed legislation would not apply to the products (beef and poultry) under the oversight of the Department of Agriculture.
The legislation would also require foreign firms and governments to apply for certification with FDA. Only those that met standards equivalent to those of the United States would be eligible.
The fees generated under this legislation would be used to hire more FDA inspectors and to research better methods for detecting contaminants. Senator Durbin says that federal regulators could collect more than $200 million a year from the fees.
From a press release:
â€œOne of the biggest obstacles FDA faces in the struggle to ensure food safety is the lack of funding they need to get the job done right,â€ said Durbin. â€œWhile the volume of imports has nearly doubled over the last three years, the number of FDA inspectors has been steadily decreasing. Meanwhile, seventy six million Americans are getting sick each year from food borne illnesses. The system needs to be fixed immediately.â€
Durbin noted that under the current system, any country and any company can export food products to the United States as long as they inform regulators of the shipment. There are currently no checks done to ensure that our trading partners have adequate regulatory systems. The FDA does not ensure that trading partners have equivalent standards or inspect overseas plants when problems arise. When the FDA needs to investigate an outbreak, it can be delayed by uncooperative foreign governments. During the recent pet food recall, U.S. regulators were delayed three weeks in their request for visas to inspect Chinese facilities.
Durbin added, â€œIf you want to sell in America, you have to meet American standards.â€ His legislation would:
- Require FDA to collect user fees on imported food products. Revenues would be used for inspections of food imports and food safety research. While the bill would give the Administration the responsibility for determining the dollar amount of the fee, it would limit it to a maximum of $20 per line item.
- Require FDA to dedicate a portion of this funding for research on testing technologies and methods that would accurately detect the presence of pervasive contaminants such as E. Coli and listeria.
- Require FDA to establish an Imported Food Certification Program. Under this program, foreign governments and firms interested in exporting food products to the United States would be required to apply for certification. Entities would only be certified if they meet standards equivalent to those of the United States for food safety, inspection, labeling, and consumer protection and agree to allow regulators to inspect foreign facilities. Regulators would have the ability to pull certifications if companies or countries failed to comply and detain products if they failed to meet U.S. standards.
Source: Washington Post
(Thanks Mike and menusux)