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The Wall Street Journal reports that the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Sub-Committee has unanimously approved a version of legislation designed to improve the efficacy of the nation’s food safety system.

According to the story, “The legislation would boost the authority and funding of the Food and Drug Administration. It would impose a $500 annual registration fee on every food facility to increase funds for the FDA's food-safety operations, and would require the food industry to make it easier for the FDA to track tainted products … To win support of Republicans and the food industry, Democrats agreed to halve the registration fee to $500 and add a cap so no single company would be charged more than $175,000. The industry, which has argued that using the fees expressly to pay for inspections could create a conflict of interest, will have a say - through public hearings - on how the FDA should spend the money. And instead of imposing a sweeping record-keeping requirement, Democrats agreed to ask the FDA to first study how the industry should maintain records, and the costs and benefits associated with it.”

In response to the committee vote, United Fresh Produce Association president/CEO Tom Stenzel said, ““Today’s markup represents another important step in transforming our nation’s food safety laws and addressing needed improvements for ensuring consumer confidence in our food safety system. We applaud the subcommittee, both Democrats and Republicans, for taking this important step and creating a strong legislative framework that will help modernize our country’s food safety programs.

“While this legislation is still a work in progress, we are pleased that the committee has addressed some of the key issues we think are important in this bill, including providing for commodity specific, science-based standards for produce by the federal government, allowing for industry-driven advances on traceability, and targeted research funding that will help drive important food safety innovations in the produce industry.”

And Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) president/CEO Pamela G. Bailey added, “This bipartisan bill contains many of GMA’s food safety proposals, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Congress to enact food safety legislation that makes prevention of contamination the foundation of our food safety strategies.

“The Subcommittee should be commended for its commitment to work in a truly bipartisan manner to strengthen and modernize our nation’s food safety system. There have been significant improvements made to the draft legislation and we look forward to working with the Committee to make other critical improvements before full Committee mark-up.”

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