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US: Harkin ready to tackle food safety bill

By Agweek | K-State Olathe Innovation Campus

WASHINGTON -- In his new role as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is planning to take up a bill to improve food safety as soon as possible.

After he moved Sept. 9 from the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee to take the job of chairman of the HELP Committee, which opened after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Harkin told reporters of the food safety bill, “We’ll move a bill here hopefully this fall.”

The food safety bill falls under the jurisdiction of the HELP Committee rather than the Agriculture Committee because the HELP Committee oversees the Health and Human Services Department, which includes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA has authority over food safety for most foods except meat and poultry, which are inspected by the Agriculture Department.

House bill

The House already has passed a bill to give FDA more power to assure food safety. It was passed with the enthusiastic support of fruit and vegetable growers, who hope that it will increase consumer confidence. Outbreaks of foodborne illness from spinach and Mexican jalapeno peppers have led to reductions in purchases of those products and fruit and vegetable producers fear that problems with other vegetables or fruit could lead to further losses of consumer confidence.

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