President Obama’s signing of the newest food safety bill was hoped to bring better oversight and reduce the occurrences of foodborne illnesses that have been steadily increasing across the country. But if the new 2011 Republican-controlled Congress has its way, the bill will never be enacted.
The measure, passed by Congress last month, gives the FDA more power to police domestic and international producers. It authorizes more inspections, requires most food companies to develop hazard prevention plans and gives the agency the ability to force recalls of tainted products. Implementing the law would cost about $1.4 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“There’s a high possibility of trimming this whole package back,” Kingston said yesterday in a telephone interview. “While it’s a great re-election tool to terrify people into thinking that the food they’re eating is unsafe and unsanitary, and if not for the wonderful nanny-state politicians we’d be getting sick after every meal, the system we have is doing a darn good job.”
Kingston, who voted against the food-safety bill, was the subcommittee’s senior Republican last year, when Democrats held a House majority. He is in line to head the panel after the Republican-controlled House convenes tomorrow.
Think Progress blasts Kingston’s posturing on the bill and his claims that blocking the law would save funds, or that the food system is safe enough.
Even without some of the high-profile food recalls of last year — including of salmonella-contaminated eggs and E. coli-contaminated spinach — there is a significant public health justification for upgrading the nation’s food safety system.
At the moment, one out of six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness every year, with 128,000 of those resulting in hospitalization. Ultimately, 3,000 people die from foodborne illness each year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The law gives the FDA the ability to force recalls, which it currently is barred from doing, and do more to inspect food coming into the country.
As The Wonk Room explained, aside from the public health benefits, the bill will actually save taxpayers money in the long-run (while costing them nothing in the short-run). According to Georgetown University’s Produce Safety Project, foodborne illness costs the U.S. $152 billion annually.
Republicans are also anxious to repeal as much of healthcare reform in the 2011 session, which will mean that not only will Americans have more incidences of illness, but no coverage for treatment when they get sick, either.