Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, led the fight last week against a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration broad new powers to regulate food safety. The bill passed the House 283-142 and now must be considered by members of the Senate.
Lucas, the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, claimed the bill would do little to improve food safety but would do a lot to increase the federal bureaucracy.
He said that the bill was changed to exclude "row crop” producers from FDA authority over growing and harvesting crops and that livestock producers had been relieved of some burdens.
But, he said, "This bill still leaves our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers subject to objectionable regulatory burdens. We can still expect to have an agency of the federal government telling our farmers how to do their jobs.”
Lucas also complained that House members were never given a chance to amend the bill.
Proponents said the bill would make it easier to track contaminated food and isolate the problem. The bill mandates more inspections at some facilities considered to be more at risk for contamination.
In recent years, the nation has had several outbreaks of serious illnesses, and even death, linked to peanut butter, tomatoes and spinach.
"Americans are dying because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the authority to protect them," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the lead sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, voted for the bill. Lucas and Reps. Tom Cole, R-Moore; Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City; and John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, voted against it.
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