Congress May Hand FDA Stronger Food Regulation Authority
In the musical “Oliver!” based on Charles Dickens’ novel, a poor child draws the ire of his caretakers when, after a meager portion of food, he famously holds out his bowl and says, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
Consumer advocates and others would argue today that we don’t necessarily need more food – but they would hold out their bowl for more food regulation, especially from the FDA.
It’s not as if we need reminders that there are some serious shortcomings when it comes to how some food manufacturers operate (and how the FDA regulates them), but a recall of more than 200 million eggs this week gives us one whether we’d like it or not.
There’s been growing pressure on the agency to tighten its regulation of food, and it is starting to look like proposed federal legislation is going to deliver just that.
Most Capitol Hill watchers are predicting the Food Safety Modernization Act will come to a vote after the Labor Day recess. It’s likely to pass, though there is some debate about a few proposed amendments including one that would ban outright the usage of BPA, the plastic lining found in cans and in other packaging. Some pundits say attaching the BPA ban would kill the whole bill.
The FSMA would give the FDA greater authority regulate food and place a greater legal burden on food manufacturers to be more transparent when it comes to how they control their product from conception to landing on your dining room table. In other words, food manufacturers would have a lot more quality control work on their, well, plate.
A timely summit last week featured representatives from the Pennsylvania Dept of Agriculture and Dept of Health as well as the Grocery Manufacturing Association. Led by Dr. Rene Massengale, Associate Professor of Biotechnology, who heads Food Safety and Quality Assurance Academic program at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Dr Massengale said industry has generally reacted positively to the potential changes coming from Capitol Hill.
While industry is supportive in principle to the idea of increased food regulation, Dr. Massengale said there is some nervousness out there about what kind of regulations finally emerge from any new Congressional law. Another wrinkle: Some manufacturers of relatively lower risk items, say candy versus eggs, are saying to feds “leave us alone, we already do this well,” she says. Her event attracted representatives of companies and organizations participating in the food supply system including agricultural growers and producers, food processors, food distributors/wholesalers/ retailers and members of related trade associations, as well as middle and upper-level managers from small and medium-sized organizations and managers, directors or owners responsible for food safety and product quality, such as HACCP, QA/QC, and process control professionals.
So, is “more” on the way?
It’s beginning to look that way. Watch this space in the coming months as track the FSMA’s progress on Capitol Hill.
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You can follow Dr. Massengale’s frequent updates on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/RDMassengale