WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Two members of the House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to ban the importation of food that has not been prepared, packed and held under conditions meeting U.S. safety requirements.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., along with Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., introduced the legislation in the closing days of the first session of the 105th Congress. It won't be considered until 1998 when Congress reconvenes.
The bill was drafted in cooperation with the administration. President Clinton announced his intent to seek FDA authority in October.
"America must be able to maintain the safety of our food supply as more foreign fruits and vegetables enter our market, particularly goods from tropical climates," Eshoo said in a statement. "We shouldn't compromise the standards of what we put on our tables and feed our families."
An estimated 38% of the fruit and 12% of vegetables consumed by Americans come from overseas.
The bill would give FDA inspectors authority to go into other countries to ensure that foreign produce is prepared under standards equivalent to those in the United States. If the FDA inspector is denied access to a location where food is prepared or packed, he can stop the importation of that food.
The legislation also authorizes the FDA to develop a plan for implementing the overseas food inspection program. The measure is equivalent to existing law that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt the import of potentially unsafe meat and poultry.
In announcing his new initiative last month, Clinton also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department to develop standards for good agricultural and manufacturing practices for fruits and vegetables. The guidance is to address potential food-safety problems throughout the food production and distribution system, such as sanitation, worker health and water quality.
Clinton also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA to develop a plan for improving and monitoring agricultural and manufacturing practices abroad, assisting foreign countries in improving these practices and preventing the import of unsafe produce, including the detection of unsafe food at docks and the border. The president's fiscal 1999 budget request is to include funding for the FDA to expand its international food inspection force.