Green: Expanding Fast Track poses threats to our food safety

This week, the House will consider H.R. 3005, the Thomas Fast Track Proposal. U.S. Reps. Gene Green (D-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and consumer advocates held a press conference to outline the effects of Fast Track negotiating authority on the nation’s food supply.

Members and advocates joined to voice concern over the provisions of this legislation and how it fails to address food safety problems caused by the growth of the international food trade.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for inspecting approximately 80% of the food supply imported to the U.S. Yet FDA has only 750 inspectors, and $260 million, to scrutinize almost 60,000 food plants and to inspect an estimated 4.5 million imported food items each year. In 1992, FDA was able to physically inspect about 8 percent of all imported food, but last year (2000), FDA inspected less than 1/2 of 1% of all imported food.

“The U.S. entrance into NAFTA in 1994 placed a huge strain on the nation’s food inspection resources,” Green said. “With dwindling budgets and growing responsibilities, the FDA’s inspectors don’t have the resources to inspect the majority of food crossing the border. Extending the free trade authority to other countries poses a serious health threat for American consumers.”

“In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, Americans are calling on their government to protect them and provide better security,”Green added. “Extending our trade agreements could only place a greater burden our personnel and stretch our resources to the limit. This will seriously threaten our nation’s food supply.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million people get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 Americans die each year from food borne illness.

“The Thomas Trade Promotion Authority legislation does little to address the food safety concerns and in some cases may undermine existing protections that have been created at the national level,” Green concluded.