Washington, D.C.—Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) expressed strong support for the Safe Food Act of 2019, introduced today by Senator Richard Durbin and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. The legislation would consolidate federal food safety activities into one independent single food safety agency, with broad jurisdiction to address food safety hazards wherever they may emerge.
“We already know how to make food safer in the United States,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy at CFA. “The Safe Food Act will help to ensure that consumers are protected from all significant sources of foodborne illness risk along the farm to fork food production chain, and that we do not waste precious resources to duplicate efforts. There is no reason why 15 different agencies should divvy up responsibility for food safety.”
“The Safe Food Act would create a more centralized surveillance system, increase information sharing among the federal, state and food industry stakeholders, and provide new legal enforcement authorities,” said Dr. Barbara Kowalcyk, co-founder of CFI. “America’s current food safety system is fragmented, which greatly hinders our ability to effectively and efficiently implement a risk-based food safety system.”
The toll of foodborne illness on consumers in the U.S. is extremely high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans is sickened each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. The economic impact on consumers and the food industry is likewise heavy due to the medical expenses, lost wages and the expense of recalling contaminated food.
The Safe Food Act of 2019 would create a single independent agency and assign responsibility to a single administrator, responsible for all of the nation’s food safety programs and for their budgets. The legislation would also revise existing food safety statutes to allocate resources according to risk, provide authority to set and enforce pathogen reduction performance standards, require testing for dangerous pathogens, authorize mandatory recalls, and penalize companies that sell dangerous food.
“The Safe Food Act offers a plan for the future of food safety,” said Patricia Buck, CFI’s Executive Director. “Our current food safety system is struggling to respond to foodborne illnesses with a patchwork set of outdated tools. It is time to consider the benefits of a single food agency if we hope to address the complex food safety challenges facing the United States in this century.”
“The Safe Food Act would overcome many of the obstacles to achieving food safety under the current regulatory system,” said Gremillion. “For example, the new food safety agency could require food producers and retailers to maintain records that would allow faster and more comprehensive food traceback in the event of an outbreak, like the recent ones linked to Romaine lettuce. That kind of reform will literally save lives.”
CFA and CFI are grateful to Senator Durbin and Representative DeLauro and their staff for introducing this legislation and for their dedication to improving our food safety system. CFA and CFI look forward to working with them on this important legislation.
Thomas Gremillion, CFA, 202-939-1010
Patricia Buck, CFI, 724-992-1969