DeLauro Wants to Simplify Food Safety Recipe

Connecticut Congresswoman Is Pushing for Food Safety Reform

So, a guy walks into a restaurant. Who makes sure his food is safe?

It depends on what he eats. A cheese pizza that arrived at the restaurant frozen? The Food and Drug Administration is in charge of inspecting it.

A frozen pepperoni pizza? That's the Agriculture Department.

A fresh pizza, made at the restaurant? Both departments would be responsible for the original ingredients, if the pizza has meat on it. What if he eats eggs? It depends whether the eggs are inside the shell, in liquid form or have been processed. Fish? Some fish is inspected by the Commerce Department.
The FDA bears the brunt of food safety oversight, a mission called into question in the wake of a massive recall of peanut products.

However, at least 15 government agencies have some part in making sure food is safe under at least 30 different laws, some of which date back to the early 1900s.

Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is looking to streamline a convoluted system.

"There is no one person, no individual today who is responsible for food safety," DeLauro said. "We have an immediate crisis which requires a real restructuring."

DeLauro and fellow Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, have been proposing an overhaul of the nation's food safety structure for more than a decade. There might now be the political will to do something following the outbreak of salmonella traced to peanuts blamed for sickening 600 people and killing at least nine others.

The new agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said he supports creating a single, combined food safety agency. It's a major break from his predecessors.

"You can't have two systems and be able to reassure people you've got the job covered," Vilsack said.

Industry is open to change, said Scott Faber, a top lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents large food and beverage companies.

"The food industry recognizes that we need to give FDA new powers and new resources to address new challenges," Faber said.

A flurry of food safety bills have been introduced in Congress. Many would strengthen FDA's oversight rather than creating a single lead agency.

DeLauro's bill would not combine agencies onto one. It would divide the FDA in two, separating the agency's drug oversight and food safety duties.

"We have a crisis at the moment. Let's try to address that," DeLauro said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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