Senators want food safety review when U.S. firms sold overseas

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By Diane Bartz

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

The agencies would join a group that has traditionally
focused on preventing sensitive high technology 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 Treasury
Department and includes the departments of Defense, Justice,
Homeland Security, Commerce, State and Energy.

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

Lawmakers have been concerned about several deals in the
farm sector, and Stabenow was critical of the 2013 purchase of
pork giant Smithfield Foods, Inc by China’s Shuanghui
International Holdings, Ltd.

Since the discovery of tainted baby formula in China in
2008, the country has been hit by a series of food safety
scandals. Chinese officials uncovered as many as 500,000 food
safety violations in the first nine months of 2016, an official
told Reuters in December.

The CFIUS panel is so secretive it normally does not even
comment after it makes a decision on a deal. It approves most
transactions, but under former President Barack Obama, CFIUS
stopped a series of Chinese acquisitions of high-end chip
makers.

In December, Obama blocked Aixtron’s 670 million euro ($717
million) sale to Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund over national
security concerns.

In January 2016, CFIUS stopped Philips from selling its U.S.
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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