Food safety update

President Bill Clinton proposed to create a Joint Institute for Food Safety Research that will develop a strategic plan for conducting food safety research consistent with his Food Safety Initiative.

Such an institute would also coordinate all federal food safety research, including that conducted with the private sector and academia. The goal is to identify foodborne hazards more quickly and accurately. That will help in developing more effective interventions at each step from farm to table, including packaging. It's unclear how the Institute would relate to another proposal combining all federal food safety regulatory authority in one agency. The National Academy of Sciences has been charged with determining the scientific basis of an effective food safety system; assessing the effectiveness of the current food safety system, including identifying scientific needs and gaps; and making recommendations on scientific and organizational changes needed. The Academy's report is due shortly. Meanwhile, Congress is debating how much to spend on food safety programs. The Administration's budget called for $101 million for food safety, but the House Agriculture Appropriations bill contained only $16.8 million for that purpose. A Senate Committee voted only $2.6 million, but the full Senate boosted the amount to $68 million. The final appropriation will be worked out in conference.

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