January 28, 2009 / 9:07 PM / 9 years ago

US bill would boost food, drug safety inspections

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic lawmakers unveiled legislation on Wednesday to increase government inspections of food and drug manufacturing plants in an effort to keep tainted products off the market.

The measure was introduced during a salmonella outbreak traced to peanut butter and follows last year’s discovery of contaminated ingredients from China that were used to make the blood-thinner heparin.

Under the bill, food producers and drugmakers would be required to pay fees to the Food and Drug Administration to help boost the frequency of plant inspections. Investigations have found the FDA’s inspection staff stretched thin with a growing number of global products to oversee.

The legislation was introduced by Democrats on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

"Americans shouldn’t have to worry about whether the food they serve their families and the medical products they use to improve their health might actually make them sick," said Representative John Dingell from Michigan.

More than 500 people in 43 states and Canada have been sickened in the current salmonella outbreak, which also may be linked with eight deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food facilities, both domestic and foreign, would need to be inspected at least once every four years under the bill. Checks of overseas and domestic drug manufacturing plants would be required every two years unless the agency can justify less frequent inspections.

The measure also would give the FDA added authority including the power to order mandatory recalls of tainted foods or unsafe medicines. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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