Senators Urge Full Funding for Food Safety in Wake of Recalls Following Listeria Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)—April 30, 2015. Following one of the most sweeping food recalls in history by Blue Bell Creameries and yesterday’s announcement of a recall of potentially contaminated pasta salad at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest, 7 Senators joined today in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety activities authorized by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Since it was signed into law in 2011, the FSMA has been underfunded by less than half the amount it needs for full implementation.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was joined by the following Senators in sending today’s letter: U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). 

“[The Food Safety Modernization Act] was enacted to bring our nation’s food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred.  Prevention is key given that food borne pathogens cause an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually,” the Senators wrote. 

“Providing the President’s requested increase of $109.5 million would enable FDA to retrain inspectors in the new prevention-based oversight system; hire technical experts to assist growers and food manufacturers to understand and comply with the new requirements; and build the new comprehensive food import oversight system provided for in the law.”

The FSMA included a provision establishing a “Preventive Controls” rule that was specifically designed to reduce the impact of food borne pathogens. The rule, which has yet to be finalized, would require food manufacturers to identify and implement preventive control measures, such as increased factory testing, to help catch pathogens like Listeria before entering the supply chain. According to the Senators, “Having measures like this in place, and the funding to ensure their understanding and compliance, are absolutely necessary to prevent future life-threatening outbreaks and costly recalls.”

On April 20, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily expanded its recall to include all products due to potential Listeria contamination.  The Centers for Disease Control reported that at least ten patients were hospitalizes and three deaths have been linked to the contamination.  Late yesterday, news broke that Hy-Vee Inc. was recalling Hy-Vee Summer Fresh Pasta because of a potential Listeria contamination. 

Text of today’s letter is below:

April 30, 2015

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, Senator Moran and Senator Merkley:

In light of the ongoing multistate, multiyear outbreak of listeriosis associated with Blue Bell Creameries, we reiterate our request that the Subcommittee fully fund the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety activities authorized by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) with $109.5 million in increased funding. 

The contaminated Blue Bell Creameries products have triggered one of the most sweeping food recalls by a single brand in the history of the U.S. food supply. Tragically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked the outbreak to three deaths and multiple illnesses throughout the states of Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas.

FSMA was enacted to bring our nation’s food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred.  Prevention is key given that food borne pathogens cause an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually.

FSMA’s Preventive Controls rule was specifically designed to reduce the impact of food borne pathogens. The rule, which has yet to be finalized, would require food manufacturers to identify and implement preventive control measures, such as increased factory testing, to help catch pathogens like Listeria before entering the supply chain. Having measures like this in place, and the funding to ensure their understanding and compliance, are absolutely necessary to prevent future life-threatening outbreaks and costly recalls.

Funding directly determines how quickly FDA can put these life-saving rules in place, and with major rules under FSMA scheduled to be finalized starting this summer, FDA needs significant additional resources. Providing the President’s requested increase of $109.5 million would enable FDA to retrain inspectors in the new prevention-based oversight system; hire technical experts to assist growers and food manufacturers to understand and comply with the new requirements; and build the new comprehensive food import oversight system provided for in the law. 

We can prevent the foodborne illnesses that have compromised the public’s faith in the ability of industry and government to ensure the safety of our food. Our hope this that you will help restore that faith and help save lives by providing sufficient funding to effectively implement FSMA activities.

Thank you again for considering this request to fund these necessary food safety programs. 

Source: durbin.senate.gov