(Nov. 2) The introduction of the Food Import Safety Act of 2007 in the House of Representatives in late October is another sign Congress is still trying to address weaknesses in government oversight of food safety, an industry lobbyist said Nov. 1.

“The issue has some legs, and there are discussions in leadership about how to move it forward,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Guenther said United Fresh is still evaluating food safety bills in Congress. However, he said United Fresh rejects the idea of user fees on food imports and restrictions of imports based on ports of entry.

Guenther said food safety is a public benefit and whose cost should be shared by the public.

“It should not be borne on the backs of industry. … This should be a public priority, and somebody needs to find money to pay for this,” he said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced the Food Import Safety Act of 2007 and found backing for the bill from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

DeLauro’s legislation includes provisions that would give mandatory recall authority to the Food and Drug Administration.

The bill also would require foreign facilities or countries to meet standards that are equivalent to those in the U.S. before being able to ship foods to the U.S.

The bill gives the Health and Human Services secretary authority to deny food imports from countries that demonstrate a pattern of violations. It also would authorize the FDA to inspect overseas plants and make access to foreign plants a condition of entry into the U.S.