President Bush signed bio-terrorism legislation substantially expanding federal regulatory authority over the food industry, but John R. Cady, president and CEO of the National Food Processors Association, said the post-September 11 measure could have had much more far-reaching impact on the food industry. “The conferees who worked out the differences between the House and Senate bills passed last year deserve special credit for preventing the expansion of these powers far beyond the cause of dealing with potential terrorist threats against our food security,” Cady said.

The new law allows FDA to hold foods they believe may pose a serious health threat, gives the agency authority to prevent “bad actors” from attempting to ship adulterated foods that pose serious health risks into the United States, mandates limited new record keeping, and gives federal inspectors access for the purpose of determining whether a food poses a serious health threat, and to trace the immediate source and distribution of suspect food.

Despite these new powers for federal regulators, Cady thinks the new law moves in the right direction. “The investment and careful targeting of new resources is the first step and the top priority in addressing our government’s food security responsibilities,” Cady said, citing the industry’s support for more inspectors at ports of entry, and improving the agency’s information tracking systems. “These new food authorities in this legislation are not perfect, and we remain concerned about how they will be implemented,” he added.