Senators want a food safety overhaul when American companies sell abroad

© Reuters. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks at an event for Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at the Ramada Hotel in Urbandale, IA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators from Midwestern states will introduce a bill on Tuesday that would require foreign companies buying U.S. food and agriculture companies to undergo a review to ensure the deal does not harm food safety. American.

The legislation by Senators Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, would add the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration, to a panel that reviews mergers and other agreements. to ensure that transactions do not harm national security.

The agencies would join a group that has traditionally focused on keeping sensitive high-tech and military expertise from falling into the wrong hands.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, as the panel is known, is headed by the Department of the Treasury and includes the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, State, and Energy.

The bill currently has no companion in the US House of Representatives. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican from North Carolina, proposed exploring the idea of ​​including the secretary of agriculture and the head of the Food and Drug Administration on the CFIUS board.

Lawmakers have been concerned about various deals in the agricultural sector, with Stabenow criticizing the 2013 purchase of pork giant Smithfield Foods, Inc by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings, Ltd.

Since the discovery of contaminated baby formula in China in 2008, the country has been plagued by a series of food safety scandals. Chinese officials discovered up to 500,000 food safety violations in the first nine months of 2016, an official told Reuters in December.

The CFIUS panel is so secretive that it usually doesn’t even comment after making a decision on a deal. It approves of most transactions, but under former President Barack Obama, CFIUS halted a series of Chinese acquisitions of high-end chipmakers.

In December, Obama blocked the sale of 670 million euros ($ 717 million) of Aixtron to the Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund on national security grounds.

In January 2016, CFIUS prevented Philips from selling its US lighting business to GO Scale Capital, made up of GSR Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, Asia Pacific Resource Development and Nanchang Industrial Group.

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