Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I think it's very interesting that the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction, as well as the FDA; and, quite frankly, it does not have any jurisdiction under this piece of legislation, and I'm disappointed that it made it through the Rules Committee.
However, in January 2011, the President signed a transformative food safety law that Congress had passed in a bipartisan manner to improve the health of our constituents.
The legislation was supported by a broad coalition of consumer, public health, and industry groups, groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association.
When we crafted the final food safety bill, we struck a compromise, a compromise on the scope of the bill so that the vast majority of truly small farms and processors are excluded, including those that sell most of their food directly to the public through farmers markets and farm stands; in addition to which regional considerations were also taken into consideration.
The integrity of that compromise has been maintained in the proposals released by the FDA to date. I can speak to this compromise and the agreement we reached at the time because, in fact, I helped to craft and negotiate the final language.
The law also requires that the FDA take regional differences into account when crafting its proposed rules. Let us be clear: that legislation was needed. Foodborne illness remains a threat to the public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year 48 million Americans become sick from the very food they eat; 128,000 are hospitalized; and 3,000 die. These figures are far too high and simply unacceptable, so we acted. We passed the first major improvement to the FDA's food safety
laws in more than 70 years.
Under the guise of seeking a report, this amendment seeks to further slow down the implementation of the law, a law with the potential to improve the very health of our constituents by reducing their risk of becoming sick from food. Yet nowhere in the text of this amendment or in the intent of these reports do I see a mention of the public health or consumer safety.
All of the FDA's proposals to implement this critical law already go through the official rulemaking process, meaning that the agency must consider the costs and the benefit of the rules, and that every one of us and our constituents can weigh in and submit comments on the rules already. The amendment before us now simply intends to slow down the process of implementing the law.
Rather than working to obstruct and delay implementation, we should be working to encourage strong implementation. Let's look at what has happened since the bill was signed into law. In that short period of time, there [Page: H3922]
have been almost 20 multi-State outbreaks positively linked to food products regulated by the FDA. One of those was an outbreak of listeria associated with cantaloupe, a product that had not previously been identified as associated with
that dangerous pathogen. The same outbreak killed 33 Americans, the largest number of Americans lost to a single outbreak in a quarter of a century.
Right now there is a multi-State outbreak of hepatitis A that may have been caused by a contaminated product regulated by the FDA. More than 115 people in eight States have become ill, and more than 50 of them have required hospitalization.
It continues to be supported by the majority of Americans. A recent poll showed that more than 75 percent of Americans surveyed supported the food safety law, which is why so many respected organizations that work to improve the public health, including the Consumer Federation of America, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Consumer Unions, oppose this amendment. I urge my colleagues to heed their advice and oppose this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Benishek, I appreciate you yielding to me.
The gentleman's amendment, by requiring FDA to conduct scientific and economic analysis prior to enforcing these regulations, is a step in the right direction. Simply put, it is a step in the right direction. I commend him and support his amendment.
Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentlewoman's comments, and I am certainly willing to work with you in the future on this issue, but we are just concerned that we are not going to make food any safer, and it is not going to help the jobs and the cost of our food because some of the rules are very difficult to comply with at the local level. There is difficulty in keeping wildlife away from apple orchards, for example. It is very difficult and more costly than I think the gentlelady
suspects. I encourage everyone to vote ``yes'' on this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.