Merkley: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Protects Families and Assists Farmers

Washington, D.C.
–Today the Senate took another step
closer to passing legislation that will give the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) the resources it needs to ensure the safety of our nation’s food
supply.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee released the chairman’s draft of
the Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes Merkley’s provisions to
improve traceability of contaminated processed foods and protect the organic
farming and sustainable agriculture industries.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 will strengthen the FDA’s ability
to protect the nation’s food supply by enacting comprehensive reforms that will
improve capacity to detect and respond to contamination outbreaks, provide food
safety training for small farmers and food processors and enact strong
preventive measures for food imports. 

Improving the traceability of contaminated processed food products
could have prevented what happened to Jake Hurley from Wilsonville,
Oregon.  Three-year-old Jake suffered food poisoning after eating peanut
butter crackers.  While there was a recall on the specific brand of
contaminated peanut butter; its use in the crackers was not tracked and the
crackers were not recalled even though they contained unsafe ingredients.

“Jake became sick because the current system failed to trace
the contaminated peanut butter to the crackers,” said Merkley.  “We can do
better.  We must make sure that strong food safety protections are in
place to protect our families from food-borne illnesses.”

At Merkley’s request, the
legislation will require the FDA to conduct a pilot project to find the best
method to trace contaminated processed food and report back to Congress with
recommendations to improve food safety.

“I’m very excited and encouraged by the work that Senator Merkley has done on
food safety legislation,” said Jake’s father Peter Hurley.  “It is
appropriate and reasonable to ask the FDA what the best practices are in
processed food traceability because they will be the ones administering and
enforcing this bill.  This is a huge step forward in protecting people
like my son and Americans across the country.”

In addition, Merkley was successful in including in the legislation provisions
to protect organic farming and sustainable agriculture industries.  In a
recent letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Tom Harkin,
Merkley pushed to ensure that there aren’t conflicting regulations that would
harm their business.  Read the entire letter here

“Oregon farmers, schools and restaurant owners have forged
strong partnerships to provide locally grown, sustainable food for our
families,” said Merkley.  “We should work to strengthen those
relationships while enacting policies to make sure that the food parents are
packing in school lunches and putting on the dinner table is safe to eat.”