Food safety debate: Transcripts of the final chapter

12/22/2010 09:44:35 AM
Tom Karst

Here is a transcript from C-SPAN closed captiong of the House debate before the vote on the food safety bill on Dec. 21. Chairman John Dingell calls the Senate version of the food safety legislation "worse" and "weaker" than the House but said it was still necessary.

PROGRAM SEGMENT
House Session
FDA FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT
Dec 21, 2010

Waxman, HenryU.S. Representative
[D] California

Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell) yielding to me. And I want to commend you, Representative DeLauro, Congressmen Pallone and Stupak, Mr. Barton and Mr. Shimkus, and former Representative Deal for the work on this legislation. [Page: H8885] For a third time, today the House considers legislation that will dramatically improve the safety of our Nation's food supply. The House first passed its bill in July 2009 on a strong bipartisan vote with 283 supporters. On November 30 of this year, the Senate passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act on a strong bipartisan basis, by a vote of 73-25. That bill contained some constitutional defects that needed to be fixed. So on Sunday night, the Senate again passed a corrected version of the bill by voice vote.

Congress has demonstrated that food safety is a bipartisan issue. Food-borne illness outbreaks can strike each and every one of us. In recent years, foods we never would have imagined to be unsafe, everything from spinach to peanut butter, have sickened an untold number of Americans. It is time, once and for all, to enact this legislation. There is no time for any further delay.

FDA needs a modern set of authorities to deal with the effects of our increasingly globalized food supply. This legislation will give FDA the tools and resources it needs to better police the safety of the foods we eat every day. The bill makes significant improvements throughout the food chain, from the farm to the dinner table. The bill will require farmers to comply with science-based standards for safe production and harvesting. Companies that process or package foods will be required to implement preventive systems to stop outbreaks before they occur. Importers will have to demonstrate that the food they bring into the country is safe. And the bill strengthens FDA enforcement authorities, giving FDA the ability to order a food recall when companies refuse to voluntarily do so.

Many of us in the House would agree that our bill was stronger. We also would likely agree that it is regrettable that there was not time for a conference to allow us to make some improvements in the Senate bill. But this is an opportunity that will not come again for a long time. There is no question that this is a good bill and that it will provide FDA with some critical new authorities. It will fundamentally shift our food safety oversight system to one that is preventive in nature as opposed to reactive. We simply must take this chance to make our food supply safer. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on H.R. 2751.


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