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Food Uniformity Act

Food Uniformity Act unfeasible to implement, warns former FDA official

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: Food Uniformity Act, food politics, the FDA

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(NewsTarget) According to a recently retired U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official, the agency is incapable of implementing and overseeing the new National Uniformity for Food Act, if the Senate passes it.

William Hubbard, a 33-year FDA employee, recently told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) that the National Uniformity for Food Act -- dubbed S. 3128 -- could not be properly overseen by the FDA, which is already under-staffed and lacks the resources to properly protect the U.S. food supply.

Hubbard says the FDA -- which is currently operating with little more staff than it had in the 1970s -- has only a quarter of its employees dedicated to its food program. He says that 34 years ago, the FDA carried out about 35,000 inspections of food manufacturing facilities each year, whereas this year the agency will only conduct 5,000. Moreover, food imports are approaching 10 million per year, though FDA inspectors only physically examine a few thousand, leaving most imports unexamined.

Hubbard called on the HELP committee to allow the current system of state and federal FDA cooperation to remain in place, as it has worked relatively well.

"S. 3128, in the name of 'uniformity,' would remove FDA's partner in protecting against food adulteration, and throw even more responsibilities at the agency -- in effect, moving problem solving from a source that has proven to be an effective complement to Federal authorities to one that cannot accept more responsibility and will thus be ineffective," Hubbard says.

"This Food Uniformity Act," added Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and FDA critic, "is nothing more than an industry-influenced power grab and desperate censorship effort that would silence states in their attempts to warn consumers about cancer-causing ingredients found in everyday food products. Honestly, it should really be called the Uniform Ignorance Food Act, because it intends to make all consumers uniformly ignorant of what's really in their food."

Hubbard also asked the Senate to consider the monetary ramifications of passing S. 3128. A provision in the bill would allow states to petition the FDA to adopt their state standard as the national standard. Reviewing each petition would cost $400,000, and the FDA expects to receive at least 200 such petitions in the first year after passage of the bill. Hubbard says it would cost $80 million just to review the states' petitions, and the FDA's food program has just a $100 million yearly budget.

Hubbard ended his address to HELP by reiterating the FDA's "absolute inability to implement this bill in any reasonable fashion."


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