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US: New food safety law

American Congress will pass a new law to overhaul the antiquated food safety system by the end of the year, US Rep. Rosa DeLauro, an influential House lawmaker, has announced.

DeLauro, the chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said the first major reform of the system in 50 years could be followed by another close look at how meat and poultry are inspected, and the changes may create friction with trade partners, according to Reuters.

"I have every confidence that we are going to pass food safety legislation and this legislation is going to get to the president for a signature and that that's going to happen this year," said Connecticut Democrat DeLauro, who was speaking at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit.

The new law considered by Congress would give FDA mandatory recall authority, increase the frequency of food inspections and require food safety plans for foodmakers. Lawmakers next need to look at the role of the US Department of Agriculture, which is charged with inspection of meat, poultry and eggs, DeLauro said.

An independent expert panel should examine whether the USDA food system needs reform, following a similar review of the FDA which made recommendations to Congress, she said.

The House passed its bill last July. But a companion Senate bill has been held up by work on healthcare and financial regulatory reform. It also has been stalled by the US Trade Representative's office, which wants to ensure reforms do not contravene trade agreements, DeLauro said, adding that trade should never trump public health.

DeLauro, an advocate for tougher food safety laws, said her subcommittee will hold hearings in the next couple of months to examine whether new trade agreements negotiated by the United States should include food safety provisions. "We need to do something before the agreement is put into place that guarantees that the product and its process and its manufacture is equal to the process that exists in the United States," she said.

Natalie Berkhout

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