I have been fighting for improved food safety standards for more than ten years. The recent recalls of tainted peanut butter, spinach, seafood, and pet food are only the latest examples of today's broken food safety system. Authority for regulating our nation's food supply is split among more than ten federal agencies. Most of these agencies lack the resources necessary to ensure the integrity of the food we consume.
I am working to secure increased resources for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety program, and I am the lead sponsor of several pieces of legislation designed to improve our food safety system. Among these bills is the Safe Food Act, which would streamline our food safety structure, improving coordination by combining the disparate food safety functions spread across the federal government into a single agency based on scientific principles. We also need to establish a robust system for overseeing the safety of imported food. I introduced legislation to strengthen the FDA's ability to monitor and inspect goods that enter the U.S. from abroad by imposing a fee on companies and countries exporting food products to the U.S. Consumers often take for granted that the food they purchase will be safe whether it originated in the U.S. or was imported, but the standards of other countries and the lack of U.S. food inspectors monitoring imported food too often proves them wrong.
I am deeply disturbed by reports of dangerous children's products entering the marketplace and causing serious injury or even death. From toys whose magnets are easily dislodged and swallowed to faulty cribs, these instances have demonstrated that there are critical gaps in both federal and industry efforts to protect our children from hazardous toys. The key regulatory agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is severely under-funded and under-staffed considering its responsibility for regulating more than 15,000 different types of consumer products. In addition, the CPSC lacks the authority to undertake recalls, or even to inform the public of a recall without pursuing a lengthy, expensive judicial process.
I recently introduced legislation designed to streamline the CPSC and to ensure that it has the authority and resources necessary to safeguard the public against hazardous products. The health of a society can be measured by the way it protects its most vulnerable citizens. Parents should know when they buy a toy in the U.S. that they aren't bringing a new hazard into their home.
I have long sought to protect consumers from fraudulent and abusive practices in the mortgage industry and am an original cosponsor of legislation to stop transactions which promote fraud, risk, and under-development. I support efforts to require mortgage professionals to report suspected fraudulent activity, and have worked to authorize several grant programs to help state and local law enforcement officials fight mortgage fraud. Additionally, I am working to provide funding for programs to help tenants, homeowners, and other consumers with mortgage fraud counseling and advice on activities or practices that are likely to increase their risk of foreclosure.
To help protect and enhance homeownership in both the state and the nation, I have encouraged efforts to create and improve outreach programs for individuals who are at risk of losing their homes. Additionally, I support measures that require lenders to notify buyers of alternatives to foreclosure and the availability of homeownership counseling, and to safeguard the credit of the buyer.
Unlike manufacturers of prescription drugs, manufacturers of dietary supplements do not have to prove that their products are safe and effective before selling them to consumers. Some dietary supplements have caused serious health problems. For example, supplements containing ephedra were linked to heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and at least 150 deaths before they were taken off the market.
In 2006, I led a bipartisan effort to enact legislation requiring manufacturers to report serious adverse events related to consuming dietary supplements. This law is enhancing the FDA's ability to identify and respond more quickly to potential health problems. I am working to build on that progress by leading efforts to ensure the safety of dietary supplements and that consumers have accurate and necessary information to make decisions.