(April 25, 12:53 p.m.) Produce and foodservice industry leaders reacted positively to the latest proposed food safety overhaul legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration power to recall contaminated food.

Representatives Adam Putnam, R-Fla., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., April 23 introduced the “Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act of 2008” that they say would modernize the country’s food safety system. During a news conference on the legislation, they said the bill would create binding food safety requirements to identify and prevent potential sources of foodborne illness.

Putnam, chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Costa, a member of the House agriculture committee, said the bill for the first time would provide the FDA the power to initiate food recalls.

The United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., calls the newest food safety legislation important in helping build effective food safety rules, while the National Restaurant Association said the proposal brings beneficial and achievable reforms that would help the country’s dining consumers.

“The food safety legislation introduced by Congressmen Costa and Putnam includes overriding premises such as providing for local growing conditions, updating good agricultural practices and establishing standards based on risk, all of which can help build consumer confidence in our products,” said United Fresh president Tom Stenzel. “We are eager to work with the Congressmen and others on the details of this legislations and what it all looks like in the field on a daily basis.”

Donna Garren, the NRA’s vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs, said mandatory recall authority remains of critical interest to restaurants.

"Most recalls are performed in a rapid manner, but this bill provides enforcement options for FDA where bad actors do not comply," she said in a news release. “Increased FDA recall authority that ensures a recall is done swiftly and properly can give consumers, and restaurateurs, peace of mind in knowing that food that does not meet the highest safety standards will not be served on our tables.”

Putnam, from Bartow, Fla., said the bill should provide fairness to domestic and overseas growers. He said the produce industry helped provide suggestions on developing the proposed reforms introduced in the bill.

“I don't think this Congress will pass an unwieldy bill, but if we do pass one and the industry can't implement it, it would be of no benefit to the food safety supply.” Putnam said. “Ultimately, we want to make the difference and one that can work from the field to the processing and to the grocery store in a way that can make sense.”

Rep. Costa, from Fresno, Calif., said the bill is critical because the last time the country reformed its food laws, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.

“Obviously, a lot has changed since then,” he said in the news conference.

Putnam and Costa said the legislation should require international suppliers to follow the same standards required of U.S. shippers without singling out particular countries.