Grocery Manufacturers Association Changes Stance on FDA

In a complete reverse from the food and beverage industry's long stance against a strong U.S Food and Drug Administration presence, the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently unveiled a new proposal, titled " Commitment to Consumers: The Four Pillars of Food Safety," which it says will improve the safety of food imported into the United States and strengthen FDA's enforcement authority.

"Ensuring the United States has the safest food supply in the world is priority number one for the food and beverage industry," said Cal Dooley, GMA president and CEO. "Because we cannot simply inspect our way to a safer food supply, industry can apply its vast knowledge and practical experience along the entire supply chain to prevent problems before they arise. And, under our proposal, a fortified FDA will be right there with us, side by side, to make sure we do it right."

Prevention and a stronger public-private food safety partnership are the foundation of GMA's Four Pillars proposal. If adopted, all importers of record would be required to adopt a foreign supplier quality assurance program and verify that imported ingredients and products meet FDA food safety and quality requirements. The program would be based on FDA guidance and industry best practices, and would be monitored and enforced by the FDA.

The second pillar of the proposal would allow FDA to focus even greater resources on products and countries deemed of higher risk through a program that would allow food companies/importers to qualify their products as lower risk by confidentially sharing test results, data, and supply chain information with the department. Qualifying products and ingredients would receive expedited treatment at the borders, allowing FDA to train its resources on products that carry greater risk of contamination.

The third pillar of the proposal focuses on building capacity within foreign governments to facilitate food safety standards that are more closely aligned with those of the FDA.

Recognizing that FDA must be armed with the appropriate resources to administer this program and adequately fulfill its food safety mission, the fourth pillar seeks to expand the capacity of FDA, by providing the agency with the resources it needs to get the job done.

"The ‘Four Pillars’ proposal is an innovative and comprehensive approach that offers effective and practical solutions to the latest challenges to our food safety net. It builds upon a long and successful history of partnership and cooperation between the public and private sectors that has provided our country with what is still one of the safest food supplies in the world. I look forward to working with Congress, the Bush Administration, and appropriate agencies to adopt this prevention-first strategy," Dooley said.

A copy of the proposal can be found at www.gmabrands.com/publicpolicy/foodsafety.cfm.

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