The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted yesterday to give the Food & Drug Administration more power to police the nation’s food supply. The proposal now goes to the full House. The new law would increase FDA’s funding and require the agency to conduct yearly inspections of food facilities that run a high risk of contamination. The law would require all food production facilities to pay a $500 annual fee to help pay for the inspections.
The new law comes after contaminated foods, ranging from spinach to peppers to peanut butter, have sickened thousands of consumers. “A series of foodborne disease outbreaks…has not only sickened and killed American consumers, but has laid bare unacceptable gaps in our food safety laws,” said committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman (D CA). “Today the Committee will act to close those gaps — and give the Food and Drug Administration new authorities, new tools, and a new source of funding to carry out this vital mission.”
The Washington Post notes that the FDA has been given a “formidable to do list,” including regulating tobacco. The agency, however, has compiled a long list of failures. “When I was first talking to the administration and the vetting process was going on, suddenly I realized that every day there was some story about a really bad situation and the FDA, and I thought, ‘Do I really want this job’?” said new FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg (above).