California U.S. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Adam Putnam, a Republican colleague representing a rural Florida district, have introduced legislation to modernize America's food safety network.

The Safe Food Enforcement, Assessment, Standards and Targeting Act, "Safe FEAST Act," would establish new food safety requirements for domestically produced and imported food to identify and prevent potential sources of food-borne illness.

For the first time, the measure grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statutory power to recall contaminated food in the case of adulteration.

The bill earned praise from the United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers, but not unqualified endorsement.

“We appreciate Congressmen Costa and Putnam tackling this difficult issue,” said Cathleen Enright, vice president of federal affairs for Western Growers. “The bill goes in the right direction and is the type of bill we can work with. It reflects an approach to food safety that recognizes and builds on the strengths of the US food industry.”

However, she added, “We will need to analyze the bill more closely and look forward to consulting with the congressmen as the bill matures.”

United Fresh Produce Association President Tom Stenzel congratulated Costa and Putnam for “their leadership in introducing the Safe FEAST Act of 2008.

“There are a number of provisions in this bipartisan bill that can work to enhance a strong food safety regulatory framework that builds public confidence in fresh produce,” he said.

Costa a member of the House Agriculture and Putnam, chairman of the Republican Conference said they expect the bipartisan measure to earn support among consumers and industry groups.