The Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act to give the Food and Drug Administration FDA new powers to investigate livestock feedlots and animal confinement facilities has been introduced in Congress.

Sponsored by Rep.Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, the legislation would allow investigations when such animal units are implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks. 

“It is clear that corporate consolidation has negatively impacted the safety of our nation’s food,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “This is compounded by a weak and disempowered FDA, which has few tools to hold corporations accountable, investigate outbreaks, and get contaminated food off the market. Under current law, multinational corporations have the power to stop an FDA foodborne illness investigation in its tracks. That cannot stand. That is why I am reintroducing the Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act, which allows the FDA to investigate corporate agribusinesses and uphold its mission of protecting public health.”

DeLauro claims food in the United States is frequently unsafe. According to its long-standing report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year finds that roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.

Consolidation in agriculture has reduced the number of family farms and contributed to more large, corporate-owned operations, which DeLauro claims have lax safety practices and put profit over all else leading to negatively impacting the safety of our nation’s food

The veteran congresswoman points to a recent report from the World Health Organization revealing growing levels of resistance to antibiotics in humans and the need for urgent action to reverse this trend. 

The legislation to expand FDA’s powers over animal confinement has been endorsed by a broad coalition of consumer and food groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“When an outbreak of food poisoning occurs, investigators should have all the tools they need to find its source. This legislation provides an important new tool for that work by allowing investigators to test for microbes on farms, shedding light on how foodborne illness can move between animals, plants, and people,” said Sarah Sorscher, Director of Regulatory Affairs, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“We shouldn’t have a food safety regulatory system that handcuffs investigators from tracing sources of outbreaks,” added Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy for Consumer Reports. “This bill provides the FDA with a critical tool to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks fully and will help prevent people from getting sick.” 

“Almost 50 million people get sick from foodborne illness each year and much of this illness originates in giant livestock raising facilities. Yet, public health authorities cannot investigate these operations when disease outbreaks occur. The Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act gives them this authority so they can determine what went wrong and identify ways to stop future outbreaks,” said Steven Roach, Safe and Healthy Food Program Director at Food Animal Concerns Trust. 

“The Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act of 2023 will improve how foodborne illnesses are tracked by enabling investigation of food safety issues on concentrated animal feeding operations. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supports risk-based and scale-appropriate food safety regulations, and is pleased to endorse this bill,” said Connor Kippe, Policy Specialist- Food Systems Integrity, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Farms and ranches in the United States have generally escaped FDA regulation. Since the enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), FDA has depended on contracts with state agriculture departments for its on-farm tasks.

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