Senate Holds Food Safety Hearing

Harkin and Chambliss call for stronger systems.

The Senate Ag Committee held a public hearing Thursday addressing the recall of peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America. Both the chairman and ranking committee member participated. Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, made his point early.

"I am nothing short of outraged at the increasing number of outbreaks of food-borne illness in this country. Everything from spinach and lettuce to beef products and, now, peanut products has been implicated," Harkin said. "To say food safety in this country is a patchwork system is giving it too much credit. Food safety in America has too often become a hit-or-miss gamble, and that is truly frightening."

Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., wanted the hearing to identify how to better coordinate the federal, state, local and private-sector response to a food safety situation.

"Our goal is to put in place the most effective tools to protect the American consumer," said Chambliss. "An effective public-private sector partnership is critical to ensuring a safe food supply. The private sector has the responsibility to follow federal guidelines and ensure the safety of their products. The federal and state governments have the responsibility to oversee these efforts and take corrective actions when necessary."

Harkin said that our systems for tracing tainted products and removing them from commerce must be stronger, better coordinated, faster, and more efficient, and that regardless of the level of contamination, we need to be able to identify the source accurately, promptly, and act quickly.

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