The United States Congress is considering legislation to make the food we eat, especially imported food, “safe and secure”. In my opinion, even if our food needs protecting, the proposed legislation only adds to the current Federal bureaucracy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has a comprehensive regulatory procedure to stop, examine, and refuse imported food which it considers adulterated or misbranded, or otherwise not fit for human (or animal) consumption. The current FDA system is working very well, and the only achievement of the proposed legislation will be to increase the price of food. We need enforcement of the current laws, not a bunch of new laws.
Granted, there are numerous instances of imported food making people sick, and even causing death. 15% of the food we eat is imported. Nevertheless, the overwhelming number of Americans who get sick or die from consuming food had nothing to do with imported food. You may get sick at your local restaurant with food poisoning because of the poor handling of the food at the restaurant, not because the food came from overseas.
Currently, for any food to enter the United States, the importer must submit an electronic entry to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FDA. The entry information includes the name of the importer, a description of the imported food, the name of its manufacturer, the country of origin, the value, the buyer of the food, and where the food is to be delivered. The requirements of the Bio-terrorism Act of 2002 require “prior notice” which means that the importer must advise U.S. Customs and the FDA far in advance of the arrival of the food at a border crossing of the United States. The U.S. General Accountability Office just issued a thorough Food Safety Report which has an excellent graphic at page 58-59 describing the imported food procedures. The Report did state that our food supply is safe, but that U.S. Customs and FDA could do better.
The Government made significant changes already regarding the traceability of food in the Bioterrorism Act which went into effect in December 2003. It required all foreign companies involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food that enters the United States to first register with the FDA so that the food may be traced all the way back from the retailer to its source overseas. Companies may register on-line at www.FDA-USA.com.