Commercial grocery stores in the US are under attack by food processors, food industry groups and local governments who want to shut them down to protect the livelihoods of their employees.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it is not required to ban commercial grocery chains from selling their products, but that has angered some industry groups.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA), which represents major food companies including Wal-Mart and Kroger, said on Tuesday that the agency has “forced” it to drop a plan to ban food processors from selling products to consumers.
In a letter to the FDA, the group said the decision to lift the ban was based on “unwarranted claims” and “unnecessary delay” in the agency’s review process, which has been underway for two years.
The FDA has repeatedly denied that it was forced to act, saying the agency reviews the safety and effectiveness of food additives and food packaging.
But the groups’ letter said the FDA has been “misleading” the public by denying it has the authority to ban the chains.
“The FDA cannot ban a chain, but the agency is obligated to take action on a case-by-case basis to address the safety, effectiveness, and health effects of products,” the letter read.
“We have repeatedly requested that the FDA clarify that it is up to the Food and Drugs Administration (federal agency) to decide whether a product is safe and effective to use.”
Food processors have a legal right to sell products to customers, but they do not have the authority or authority to shut food sellers down, the letter said.
“While the agency should continue to monitor and enforce its own process, this letter raises significant concerns about the agency taking such an extreme position to protect food processors and other small businesses from competition from food companies that have no legal rights to sell food to consumers.”
It said the industry was also worried about a lack of transparency from the FDA about how it would respond to complaints about the companies’ practices.
“In the end, the public should have the opportunity to see the agency take appropriate action to protect consumers from predatory food companies,” the group added.
The White House and the National Restaurant Federation (NRF) have accused the FDA of attempting to shut grocery stores down, a claim the industry strongly rejects.
“There are plenty of small, locally owned businesses that have the potential to succeed, and that is why this issue is so important,” NRF president Mark Slesinger said.
He added that he was encouraged by the announcement that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was “committed to continuing to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply”.
“This is an important step forward, and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with the FDA and the agencies that oversee food safety in the near future,” he added.
In April, the Food & Drug Administration said it was reviewing its decision to ban chains from buying food and would update its proposed rules in November.
But industry groups have long said the agency was failing to do its job.
“It’s like an old adage that says you can’t shut down a factory and then say it was just an accident,” said Michael McDonald, president of the National Retail Federation.
“They’re forcing this on the industry to shut up.
They’ve done nothing but push us further away from safety.”