American food safety reform fails to clear House

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 31st July 2009

The passage of sweeping reforms of the US food safety regime faltered yesterday (29 July), when the proposed measures failed to generate enough support in the House of Representatives.The proposed bill aimed to tighten US food safety by requiring manufacturers to “conduct a hazard analysis, implement preventive controls and implement a food safety plan”.

It would also have provided US food regulators with additional powers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have been able to order recalls, establish an importer verification program and quarantine food.

The FDA would also have been required to issue “science-based performance standards” to minimise hazards from food borne contaminants; standards for agricultural commodities; inspect facilities “at a frequency determined pursuant to a risk-based schedule”; establish a food tracing system; assess fees relating to food facility reinspection and food recall; and establish a programme for accreditation for testing laboratories.

The bill was debated under special rules, which allowed only 40 minutes of debate with no amendments. It failed to generate the two-thirds majority required to pass by eight votes: 280 representatives voted in favour and 150 voted against.

Concerns that family farmers would be required to pay the same fees and meet the same record keeping and reporting requirements as multinational food processors dominated debate in the House.

“There is a great deal of resistance from smaller food producers, who feel that the bill will unfairly burden them,” food safety advocate William Marler, a partner at Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark, observed.

According to US reports, the Democrat-backed bill is likely to be resubmitted to the House for consideration under rules that require a simple majority to pass the legislation.

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