Implications of Congressional Food Safety Reform: Getting Ahead of the Regulatory Curve

    20 May 2009

    Congress is currently considering a wide array of food safety initiatives that have the potential to affect all categories of foods and food products (i.e., conventional foods, functional foods, medical foods and dietary supplements). Over the last three years, high-profile contamination incidents ranging from melamine in pet food to salmonella-tainted peppers have focused national attention on various perceived weaknesses in the U.S. food safety regulatory system. In the wake of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with foreign-sourced products, consumers and policymakers initially emphasized the need to improve the safety of imported foods. Th is year, however, the scandal embroiling the Peanut Corporation of America following revelations that the company knowingly sold salmonellatainted peanut products has provided a stark reminder that
    certain domestically-sourced ingredients may be equally susceptible to the same hazards as their foreign counterparts.

    In recent months, food safety reform has become a political flashpoint. Various Congressional committees have already held hearings on food issues, and the interest in food safety is likely to continue. Although President Obama did not campaign on food safety issues, his recent focus on U.S. food safety policies helps illustrate how quickly events can overtake the policy agenda. When announcing his nomination of former New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, to serve as commissioner of Food and Drugs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the agency) (during the President’s weekly radio address), the President focused in part on Dr. Hamburg’s experience in “overseeing food safety in our nation’s largest city.”1

    1 Press Release, White House Office of the Press Secretary, President Barack Obama Announces Key FDA Appointments and Tougher Food Safety Measures, (Mar. 14, 2009); Remarks of President Barack Obama, President’s Weekly Radio Address (Mar. 14, 2009).

    With permission from FDLI (link the word "FDLI" to