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Congress seeks funds for food safety

Grocery store clerk handles U.S. meat

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: The FDA says it needs more money to make sure imported food is safe. Now, it's up to Congress to find those funds. One idea would put the added cost on food importers. Jeremy Hobson reports from Washington.


Jeremy Hobson: A bill being considered in Congress would charge importers fees to pay for stepped-up inspections. Right now, the cash-strapped FDA only inspects about 1 percent of food imports.

Not enough, says one of the bill's authors, Democrat Bart Stupak.

Bart Stupak: If Japan can inspect 15 percent of food, we're only doing 1 percent, certainly we can get up to 15 percent at least, I would think.

But the food industry isn't thrilled with the user fee idea, because for products with many ingredients, costs could spiral. The Grocery Manufacturers Association says that could prompt companies to manufacture elsewhere.

George Washington University professor Michael Taylor calls the user fee idea a necessary evil.

Michael Taylor: Industry is being asked to pay for what should be a publicly provided service. And it's a service to the public to meet a public good. From the industry standpoint, it's a tax.

Taylor worries that with industry paying the tab, the independent aspect of inspections could be compromised.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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