Adequate funding, increased education and training for inspectors, development of rapid testing procedures and tools, and compensation for producers who suffer marketing losses due to inaccurate government-advised recalls are critical considerations as the federal food safety system is evaluated, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Testifying today on behalf of AFBF before the House Agriculture Committee, Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Federation, said, “The nation’s food safety system must have the resources, authority and structural organization to safeguard the health of American consumers against foodborne illness. Evaluating food safety laws to determine whether they have kept pace with significant changes in food production, processing and marketing…and the growing volume of imports is a priority for agriculture and the food industry, as well as government.”
The U.S. currently imports food from more than 150 countries through more than 300 ports.
“As the supply chain gets longer, there are more opportunities, both accidental and intentional, for the introduction of public health threats,” Wooten said.
He noted that the number of people involved in preparing the food Americans eat has increased over time. With approximately 50 cents out of every retail food dollar spent on food and meals eaten outside the home, the need for adequate training of foodservice workers is more important than ever.
Although farmers and ranchers do understand the need for continuous food safety improvement, Wooten said, “the farm-level impact on producers must be considered in any new food safety regulations or legislation.”
Commenting on the Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749), Wooten also expressed strong concern regarding provisions that would expand the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to include regulation of on-farm production activities.
“Farms are explicitly included in extensive recordkeeping, reporting and traceability measures which may not be feasible or practical for many producers,” Wooten explained. Such measures also are likely to impose significant costs on food producers.