Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Senate Demands More from Food Safety Plan

Senate demands more from food safety plan; By Missy Ryan; Reuters; 4 December 2007.

Senators and food safety experts on Tuesday criticized the Bush administration's new blueprint for food safety, saying the proposed changes do not go far enough to repair a deeply dysfunctional system.

"The FDA's promise to protect American families is too often an empty one, because of the starvation budgets and absent leadership that FDA has endured in recent years," Sen. Edward Kennedy said in opening remarks.

Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and fellow skeptical lawmakers had sharp questions for Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who oversees the Food and Drug Administration, as he defended last month's twin food and import safety plans.

They seemed reluctant to believe the Bush administration's new approach, the product of months of field visits and agency probes, would do enough to restore consumers' confidence after a wave of dangerous spinach, peanut butter and other goods.

The task is a formidable one, with $2 trillion in U.S. imports in 2006, from 825,000 separate importers. But as food imports grow 15 percent a year, the FDA inspected about 1 percent of the goods under its purview in fiscal 2006.

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