US Senate passes food safety bill

Posted by Josette Dunn on 1st December 2010

The US senate has passed a food safety bill yesterday (30 November) that will give the government new powers to increase inspections of food processing facilities and force companies to recall tainted food.The US$1.4bn bill, which passed with a vote of 73 to 25, will also mean stricter standards for imported foods.

Currently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the power to order food recalls, instead it must ask food manufacturers to do so voluntarily. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will give it that power.

The bill will emphasise prevention, with the agency working to prevent outbreaks before they begin. Farmers and food processors will have to tell the FDA how they are working to keep their food safe at different stages of the production process.

The new legislation will increase the number of inspections at food facilities, with inspections every three years for high risk foods. It will allow the FDA to access records if there is a reasonable probability a food is causing sickness or death in humans or animals.

It will also allow the FDA to create new standards in the safety of fresh produce, collect fees for non compliance with recalls or re-inspections, the FDA will also form new regulations on safe transport conditions and allow it to use outside laboratories to ease the load on the FDA.

The bill has been stalled in the senate for over a year and its passage was only possible after Senate leaders agreed to a number of compromises, with the legislation granting exemptions for farmers selling less than $500,000 each year that directly market to consumers within in a 275 mile radius.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the legislation this week. However, it is unclear whether it will vote on the Senate’s version of the bill. The House of Representatives passed a different version of the bill in 2009, on which members of both parties voiced concern over the legislation’s impact on small farms and businesses.

“And after every outbreak, we learn how infrequently some of America’s food processing facilities are inspected by authorities,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “This legislation will give Americans the confidence that the fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and packaged foods we serve our families are safe to eat.”

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