The National Restaurant Association today welcomed the introduction of bipartisan food safety legislation in the Congress by U.S. Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Adam Putnam (R-Fla.). The bill, “The Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act of 2008,” was introduced this afternoon at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“The restaurant industry welcomes the food safety bill introduced today by Representatives John Costa and Adam Putnam and commends their bipartisan leadership,” says Michelle Reinke, director of legislative affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “This is a good bill for the restaurant industry and its patrons. While we believe the public should have confidence in our food supply, the legislation addresses beneficial reforms to our food safety system that are achievable. We look forward to working with Congressmen Costa and Putnam to improve food safety and help assure our customers that we are doing everything we can to keep our food supply safe.”

“There are very good provisions in this bill, including solid standards for produce safety,” says Donna Garren, vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs for the Association. “The National Restaurant Association supported the produce industry’s 2007 call for Food and Drug Administration produce safety standards for the entire industry with an additional focus on higher risk products. This bill addresses those higher risk standards and, if implemented, will improve compliance with good agricultural practices and improve food safety. Tighter produce standards will ensure that the proper handling procedures are being utilized to produce the safest fresh fruits and vegetables possible.

“Mandatory recall authority is an area of key interest for restaurants,” continues Garren. “Most recalls are performed in a rapid manner, but this bill provides enforcement options for FDA where bad actors do not comply. Increased FDA recall authority that ensures a recall is done swiftly and properly can give consumers, and restaurateurs, peace of mind in knowing that food that does not meet the highest safety standards will not be served on our tables.

“The legislation would also require that foods coming from international suppliers adhere to the same safety standards set by the FDA, and that the supply chain is doing its part to make sure we know where our food is coming from and how it is produced,” notes Garren. “Recognizing that we need to focus at every point in the foodservice supply chain – knowing your supplier – really is where confidence in food safety has to begin.”
“Food safety is one of the restaurant industry’s highest priorities, and we are working at the local, state, federal and international level to strengthen food safety systems and increase consumer confidence,” said Reinke. “The Costa-Putnam bill is a laudable effort to move food safety forward in the Congress, and we believe this legislation will make our food safer. The National Restaurant Association and its member companies remain strongly committed to working with Congress to enact effective food safety reform.”

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