Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Senate Passes Historic Food Safety Reform Bill

WASHINGTON—The Senate passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) by a 73 to 25 vote today. The $1.4 billion bill is the first major overhaul of food safety law for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 70 years and gives FDA enhanced responsibility to ensure the nation’s food safety.

The House of Representatives approved a different version of the food safety bill in 2009; however, the bill’s sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the House has agreed to adopt the Senate version, bypassing the need for a conference to integrate the two bills. Once approved, the bill will move on to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill gives FDA greater authority to initiate recalls, rather than waiting for food companies to voluntarily recall food products. Food processors and farmers also would be required to develop strategies to prevent contaminations, and would be required to allow FDA access to all records.

The bill calls for the FDA to inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities within a year of enactment, and double its number of foreign inspections in each subsequent year for five years. The measure would require inspections every three years for U.S. manufacturing and processing plants the FDA views to be at a high risk for contamination, and every five years for all other domestic facilities. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 50,000 foreign and domestic food facilities would be inspected in 2015 by FDA or federal, state, local or foreign officials acting on FDA’s behalf.

The legislation also would require most food producers to develop hazard prevention plans and would give the FDA access to those records when requested. Some local food producers with annual sales under $500,000 would be exempt from that rule under the Tester amendment.


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