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Draft food bill could derail traceability initiative

by Joan Murphy | June 04, 2009
WASHINGTON -- United Fresh Produce Association President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel testified in Congress June 3 that he is concerned that a draft food-safety bill ready for markup this month could derail the produce industry's traceability initiative.

At a four-hour hearing before the House Energy & Commerce Health subcommittee, Mr. Stenzel said that Congress should allow only commodity- specific standards for fresh produce that apply equally to domestic- and foreign-grown products.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) introduced the draft Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 on May 27, a key bill that is likely to drive legislation in Congress. Rep. Waxman said that he hopes to pass food- safety legislation before taking up health-care reform legislation later this month.

"Over the past two years, we have been able to build the consensus in Congress that recognizes that fresh produce demands a commodity-specific approach - one size does not fit all," said Mr. Stenzel, the only representative of the produce industry who testified at the subcommittee hearing.

But Mr. Stenzel raised concerns about the traceability provisions in the draft bill, saying that Congress should set overall goals for industry to meet in implementing traceability systems and avoid "overly prescriptive" requirements, such as in the draft bill, so as to not "derail" traceability initiatives underway within the food industry.