Bush wishes to grant more power to FDA

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The Bush administration plans to empower the FDA to protect the United States against  dangerous consumer products through government-ordered recalls, stricter safety rules for manufacturers and steeper fines for those who violate them, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"While we have strong food and product safety standards, we need to do more to ensure that American families have confidence in what they find on our store shelves,” President Bush said in a press conference announcing the plan. “They have the right to expect the food they eat, or the medicines they take, or the toys they buy for their children to be safe.”

The LA Times reported that the new plan would require importers and domestic producers to undergo checkpoints and safeguards at specific points in the production and distribution chain. Consumer groups have recently been advocating for the strategy.

Bush said “the FDA would [specifically] be empowered to order a recall when a company refuses to recall their product voluntarily, or moves too slowly in removing the unsafe product from the market. With this authority, the FDA will be in a better position to act quickly if any problem occurs.”

As part of the plan, the administration is seeking new legal authority for the FDA, including the power to issue mandatory recalls, according to the LA Times. The agency currently must convince companies into voluntary withdrawals. The FDA would also be able to impose safety plans on domestic and foreign producers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt acknowledged that “we haven't gotten to the point of putting a price tag” on the new measeures. He said that would be addressed in the president's 2009 budget, which is scheduled for submission to Congress in February. A coalition of consumer and industry groups has called for doubling the FDA's $450 million food safety budget within five years, but the 2009 budget is not expected to reach the extent of such an expansion, according to the LA Times.