Industry, Consumer Groups Join Senators on Food Safety Push

WASHINGTON -- At a press conference yesterday at the U.S. Capitol, food retail buyer, manufacturer and consumer groups joined forces with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) to request that the White House increase FDA's food safety resources.

Also yesterday, in a letter to President Bush featuring co-signers from both sides of the aisle, Durbin urged Bush to recognize the acknowledge the importance of this issue by proposing a considerable funding increase for FDA's Foods Program in the fiscal 2009 budget.

The food trade groups and consumer advocacy groups chiming in were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the American Frozen Food Institute, the Coalition for a Stronger FDA and FDA Alliance, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Consumer Federation of America.

The press conference came in the wake of a report issued last week by a subcommittee of the FDA's Science Board, describing how underfunding of the agency is imperiling its ability to protect the food supply.

Specifically, that report found that FDA is unable to do its job because of mounting demands on it, and resources that haven't grown in proportion to those demands.

"For years, Congress has pointed out that the FDA is understaffed and underfunded, " noted Durbin in a statement. "Now the FDA's own science advisors admit the agency is failing at its mission. The only good news is that these reports may give us the momentum we need to change. I am calling on the Administration to commit to doubling FDA funding over the next five years. We simply cannot leave American families vulnerable when it comes to food safety."

"The nature of our food supply is evolving more rapidly than ever before, and the food industry is adapting in order to provide consumers with abundant, safe, and affordable food," said GMA president and c.e.o. Cal Dooley. "In order to adequately protect the food supply and restore consumer confidence in our nation's food safety net, Congress and the Bush Administration must provide FDA with the resources it needs to modernize the agency and allow it to properly fulfill its food safety mission."

"The capable and dedicated professionals at FDA would certainly benefit from increased funding for essential food safety programs," added FMI president and c.e.o. Tim Hammond.

Kennedy said that he was working with his colleagues on "comprehensive bipartisan legislation" to address the issue, including "preventive measures, effective surveillance, and robust authority for FDA to take action where needed to protect lives," which he recommended should be a top priority for the Senate to deal with in 2008.
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