The bill would also limit the number of U.S. ports that foreign foods could enter to only those equipped with FDA laboratories to help cut down on so-called "port-shopping," where importers move shoddy products from one port to the next, hoping to eventually slip the product by inspectors.
For their part, federal inspectors say they're up to the challenges of monitoring food imports.
Rogers, whose office oversees the inspection of imported goods, said his agency "is doing an excellent job, given our resource challenges."
"Certainly, I will concede that an agency with more can do more," Rogers said. But more inspections are "not the panacea for total public health protection," he added. "There are opportunities to interact with foreign governments, opportunities to collaborate with the states, to interact with those other agencies that have overlapping responsibilities -- it's all part of a network."
Raymond added that USDA teams are already working with officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Control on a computerized system that should boost the detection of hazardous imported goods.
As for granting the FDA recall authority, Rogers said it may not be necessary. Products made by foreign firms that resist FDA oversight are quickly targeted by the agency for inspection at the border, he noted. In that sense, "an inspection dictates whether or not a firm will have access to the U.S. market," he said.
Efforts to boost the safety of imported food will also hinge on global partnerships.
A case in point: In October, FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and others met with their Chinese counterparts to discuss import safety. In December, the two countries signed an agreement that places new registration and inspection requirements on 10 food products exported by Chinese companies. Those products include some preserved foods, pet foods a
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