September 21, 2007
September 21, 2007 - The grocery industry on Tuesday asked for more regulation - to ensure that the imported products it sells meets U.S. safety and quality standards.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) proposal seeks to calm fears about the safety of imported food after a rash of high-profile recalls. It wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee the program - and have Congress provide the agency the money to do so.
The proposal also would expedite the processing of imports pre-cleared with the FDA, in part by allowing companies to share in confidence test results and other data. That would let the agency focus on products from other sources deemed of higher risk, according to the group. Today, the FDA inspects less than 1 percent of all food imports.
"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," said Cal Dooley, president and chief executive of GMA, whose members include ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Nestle USA Inc.
The United States is expected to import a record $70 billion in agricultural products for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, according to a department of agriculture forecast. That's about double the nearly $36 billion purchased overseas in 1997.
The industry proposal also suggests doing more work overseas to ensure exporters understand and can meet U.S. standards.
"When more imports are a part of the food supply, it becomes important to focus on their entire life cycle and not just the condition that they are in when they reach the port," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.