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U.S. Food Safety: Solutions at a Glance
Date:1/16/2008

From user fees to traceability reforms, no shortages here

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- There's no shortage of proposed solutions for filling the safety gaps in the U.S. food system.

Many suggestions focus on the oft-stated reforms of establishing one federal "superagency" to monitor food safety; beefing up the overworked U.S. Food and Drug Administration; or, at the very least, giving the FDA the ability to recall tainted food products.

But there are other proposed solutions, which include:

  • Introducing food-inspection user fees. For the past 15 years, the FDA has gained much of the funding it uses for the drug-approvals process from the fees it levies on drug companies. Many experts believe that by charging food importers similar fees, the agency could expand its food-inspection efforts.
  • Basing inspections on risk. Under current law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspections Service requires foreign countries and firms to meet "U.S. equivalency" standards for meat, poultry and egg products before allowing them into the United States. The FDA could follow a similar process, vetting more reliable firms beforehand and focusing inspections on goods from countries and companies that don't make the grade.
  • Working with Homeland Security and other agencies. Since 9/11, funds allocated to inspect shipping containers for bioterror and other hazards have increased -- even as the FDA's food-inspection budget has declined. As part of the 2002 federal Container Security Initiative, inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security now routinely inspect goods due to be shipped to the United States from 50 ports worldwide. FDA inspectors stationed in these ports could also check on food, experts say.
  • Improving product traceability. This year's protracted search for the source of melamine in tainted pet food from China sh
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