(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3 p.m.)
Even as her colleagues in the House of Representatives were approving a food safety bill that would expand the authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., reintroduced legislation to establish a new federal agency to oversee food safety.

On Dec. 21, DeLauro reintroduced the Single Food Safety Agency Act of 2010, a bill that if approved would create an agency that would oversee all federal food safety activities. The bill was introduced in 1999 but failed to garner Congressional approval.

Under DeLauro’s proposed legislation, responsibility for food safety would be transferred from the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

If the bill becomes law, it would require the transfer of all food safety-related functions transferred within one year to the new agency.

DeLauro praised representatives for passing the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“But further action on this issue is needed, and I will continue to fight for stronger reforms and ultimately a single food safety agency,” she said in a statement. “Consolidating the fifteen agencies that currently have jurisdiction over the safety of our nation’s food supply would provide the regulatory structure so desperately needed to prevent foodborne illnesses and respond better to outbreaks.”

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, said the industry opposes the bill because the current structure is working, given the tools that regulators possess.

“We have seen no reason to turn the current regulatory system on its head and create a new super agency,” he said. “It hasn’t worked with homeland security and won’t likely work with food safety. I don’t think anyone has supported the notion of some kind of super agency is needed. The best course of action is taking what we have and ensuring it’s doing the best possible job it can.”

Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said the debate isn’t over and said he expects more bills to be introduced.

He said members of the House of Representatives passed their food safety bill 1 ½ years ago and didn’t get the chance to debate their version when they were forced to vote on the U.S. Senate bill.

“We are not surprised that Rep. DeLauro introduced the bill,” Guenther said. “The ink’s not even dry on the legislation so we need to see if some of the things in this bill work or won’t work, then move forward before we start figuring out if we need to consolidate food safety requirements.

“If that includes a single agency down the road, then it will include that in the future. We will work to try to get this new law implemented in a way that works for the industry.”

Eastern Editor Doug Ohlemeier contributed to this article.

UPDATED: DeLauro proposes single food safety agency again

DeLauro