U.S. Food and Agricultural Imports: Safeguards and Selected Issues [October 3, 2007]   [open pdf - 130KB]

"U.S. officials continue to assert that the U.S. food supply, including the portion provided through imports, is among the safest in the world. One challenge has been how to keep it safe in the face of rapidly rising imports, a result of globalization and consumer desire for a wider variety of nutritious and inexpensive foods year-round. Two federal agencies -- USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are responsible for the majority of the total funding and staffing of the government's food regulatory system. For imports, FSIS relies on a very different regulatory system than FDA, including a differing approach to addressing equivalence, as described in this report. Do U.S. safeguards, generally created at a time when most Americans obtained their foods domestically, remain sufficient to protect public health? What, if any, changes should be made to enhance the safety of food imports? Critics argue that major reforms are necessary because the present programs are both poorly designed and inadequately funded to meet today's challenges. Those who oppose major changes assert that imported foods already are subject to the same safety standards as and pose no greater hazards than domestically produced foods. They also contend that smarter allocation of existing resources and the food industry's own controls, can and should be capable of addressing any problems that arise... Some bills seek to require more physical inspections and testing by FDA at the border or within other countries, to authorize more research into inspection and testing technologies, or to restrict imports to specific ports. H.R. 3100 is another measure with import safety provisions."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL34198
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