Senate Passes Food Safety Bill That Would Increase FDA Authority

Earlier today, the Senate passed its version of a new food safety bill that would increase the authority of the Food & Drug Administration in making recalls and inspecting food processing facilities. The intent behind the bill is to proactively prevent outbreaks of tainted food instead of just dealing with the negative health and economic after effects.

Among the salient points of the legislation:
* The FDA would have the power to demand food recalls, instead of merely requesting that companies recall products.

* A large increase in the number of FDA inspections of food processing plants, with an emphasis on foods that are considered most high risk.

* Grocery stores will be required to to post prominently a list of recently recalled foods.

* The FDA gains more control over food imports, including increased inspection of foreign processing plants and the ability to set standards for how fruits and vegetables are grown abroad.

While the bill covers about 80% of the U.S. food supply, it does not cover slaughterhouses or most meat and poultry processing plants. Those still fall under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Agriculture.

The legislation has been welcomed by large food producers who have recently taken huge hits from tainted foods like eggs, peanut butter and spinach. Even those who weren’t responsible for recalled products still feel the sting as consumers shy away from buying these items.

Meanwhile, advocates for smaller farmers who sell a majority of their produce locally say the bill could crush small farms under a mountain of paperwork and red tape they are not equipped to handle.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which introduced its own version of this overhaul earlier in the year. The House could stall the bill if it decides to dicker over the differences between the two bills, or it could rush it through in order to pass the legislation before adjourning for the year.

Senate Passes Overhaul of Food Safety Regulations [NY Times]

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  1. lastingsmilledge says:

    fox news “SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT IS TAKING OVER OUR LIVES” meltdown in 3, 2, 1….

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Surprisingly, I’m okay with this.

    • spamtasticus says:

      Sweet. We can look forward to federally funded raids on raw milk farms. Woot!

    • blag says:

      Monsanto is about to take over our lives. Small, independent farmers can kiss their seeds and their crops goodbye while we resign ourselves to artificially fabricated plant foods

  2. The cake is a lie! says:

    Great… more unenforceable rules that we have to be irritated aren’t getting enforced.

  3. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Oh, man, Queen Latifah has really let herself go.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    In before the “Doesn’t Cognress have better things to do than regulate the FDA and cable television, and should focus on the war and shit” comments.

  5. Nogard13 says:

    So, the FDA gets to hire more inspectors but Federal employee’s salaries are frozen in an effort to save money? How about not hiring more workers?

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      That’s what I was thinking. But then again, the government did promise they’d create jobs?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Exactly how does that improve the health inspection problems we currently have?

      • SkokieGuy says:

        The FDA – “an agency that in recent decades focused more on policing medical products than ensuring the safety of foods. The bill is intended to get the government to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur”

        The problem is that there are NOT many health inspections, because the agency currently has little power to do anything, and is understaffed.

        Next time, RTFA

    • Firethorn says:

      The question I’d come up with: Would the theoretical(at this point) lives saved, hospital bills prevented, and massive overkill recalls not done outweigh the costs of the new government employees and other powers granted the FDA?

      Not doing one or two of those massive recalls would probably ‘pay’ for a few hundred employees, but I think I’ll wait to see if this actually works, or if it results in even MORE recalls of products that, on average, make nobody sick.

  6. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    The problem I have with the FDA is that its one big organization that’s in charge of regulating a hell of a lot of things, which is bad for them and bad for the people its built to protect; higher potential for foul-ups, in my opinion.

    In Canada (I’m doing this research on-the-fly, so bear with me) we have separate departments for everything, it seems. Food is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, drugs and dangerous product recalls by Health Canada, etc.

  7. smartmuffin says:

    Giving the government more control over our food supply and causing food prices to go up. Thanks again, big brother!

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      Yeah! Stupid nanny state, trying to make sure that the food we buy won’t kill us! How dare they take away our right to food poisoning?

      • outis says:

        I make my own food poisoning at home?

      • Firethorn says:

        Thing is, most food poisoning comes from food improperly treated by the consumer, followed up by restaurants.

        Neither of which is going to be prevented by adding even more regulators to the FDA. The other thing I’ve noticed is that even when they do one of these massive recalls, they’re recalling MILLIONS of servings, most of which has already been consumed, and only have half a dozen people who got sick(enough to visit a hospital or generate a report, at least).

      • smartmuffin says:

        Right, because it’s really that simple. Everyone wants safer food, the question is, how much more are you willing to pay for it, and will these procedures actually work?

        Adding more regulation WILL raise the price of food. If you’re okay with that, that’s fine, let’s have that debate, but acting like the ONLY thing this does is magically make food a lot safer without any sort of negative consequence is just burying your head in the sand and refusing to think like an adult.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      So, you are fine with companies being able to sell you tainted food and the government not being able to stop them? Right now food recalls aren’t published well enough. You either have to look for them yourself or wait for them to show up on the news. Even then, the government can’t force a recall of a known, contaminated product, they can only politely ask the producer to do it. This bill would change that so that the government can do the recall and not have to wait for the company to do it whenever they feel like…if at all.

      • Cleo256 says:

        But every grocery store I’ve ever been in is totally on top of all food recalls. It’s in the grocery store’s best interest to make sure you get untainted food.

        I’m not usually the “rar! nanny state! smaller government!” person, but in this case I think they’re trying to fix a system that isn’t broken.

        • oneandone says:

          A lot of the food that’s been recalled wasn’t sold at grocery stores – it was sold to institutional buyers (peanut butter in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, prisons) or to resturaunts (lettuce in salad bars. Or sold to other food manufacturers, who used it as an ingredient.

          It’s fine to say that with enough information, consumers can use market pressure to penalize companies that produce contaminated food – but in many cases, there are several companies between you and source of the food. Do you really want to trust all of them to protect your best interest? And how do you know who’s really at fault if you get sick?

      • lawnmowerdeth says:

        I’ve never been poisoned by food, so I’m not very worried about the specter of rampant evil tainted corporate food.

        • Brunette Bookworm says:

          I haven’t but I work with someone who got botulism from some tainted canned foods and was out of work for a couple weeks. Most companies will react well because they want their customers to feel safe but look at that peanut butter case where the company knew the product was contaminated and still sold it. Unfortunately cases like that show that there are companies who just don’t care.

          • Firethorn says:

            Unfortunately cases like that show that there are companies who just don’t care.

            I’d argue that no ‘company’ cares. What you get is companies with people who don’t care; the proportion of which directly affects how likely stuff like this is to occur.

            As such, take the peanut butter case as an example – I’d have charged either the person who wrote the policy for testing and selling, or the person who ordered mixing/retesting/selling of the contaminated product, if not both.

    • Nick1693 says:

      Go read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and tell me you’d rather not have “big brother” inspecting your food.

      • EverCynicalTHX says:

        Look at the lobbying sponsors of the bill then watch FOOD, Inc. – maybe then you’ll understand why we don’t want control of our food supply in the hands of a few industry giants.

        This law is way to broad, why not simple give the FDA power to force a recall..this is nothing but big lobbying trying to push through a bill that even many dems don’t want.

        • Nick1693 says:

          I’ve seen the lobbying sponsors.

          I think they’re interested in the bill because it gives them government inspectors instead of their own, saving them money.

  8. RayanneGraff says:

    God, how I hate it when the government does something to make us safer. Stupid mothering bastards, it’s our right to buy tainted food!

  9. mospeada says:

    To paraphrase Homer Simpson. Ah, Government regulation, is there anything it can’t do?

  10. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    now they can add drugs directly to our food supply without having to hire outside help.

  11. hanoverfiste says:

    I should point out that the Consumer Union has specifically supported this bill. Other supporters include: General Mills, Kraft Foods North America, and a large number of food industry groups.

    I am not really excited of the prospect of Department of Homeland Security having jurisdiction over my home garden, which this bill could do, especially with the great job they are doing at the airports.

    This bill would make small growers subject to the exact same regulation as the food giants forcing many out of business, meanwhile will not regulate any of the food imported in.

    Anyway, most I can do contact my officials daily, which I have done. They already oppose, most like do to partisanship and little with actual logic.

    Nothing left to do now but witness another piece of our freedom erode away.

    • smartmuffin says:

      Don’t forget Monsanto. We know how much everyone here loves them! They were also lobbying for this bill.

      • areaman says:

        I’m all for safer food but in reviewing the companies that support this, it looks like big business lobbying to crush their competitors. Sounds like more crony capitalism.

        And then for the win, some people are exclusively blaming the government and no other parties. MON closes at 59.96 +0.60 (1.01%) today.

    • Nick1693 says:

      I am not really excited of the prospect of Department of Homeland Security having jurisdiction over my home garden, which this bill could do, especially with the great job they are doing at the airports.

      Obviously, I haven’t read the full text of the bill, but the FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

      Is there something I’m missing?

  12. Bsamm09 says:

    They better not exempt small farmers and organic producers. They need to be regulated too just as closely. Who knows what they are using on their produce.

  13. PBallRaven says:

    Say goodbye to your local asian / mexican / etc. imported food store.

  14. tashmn says:

    I’m not sure people think this bill is anything new. Our food industry has been subject to intense regulation since the New Deal. Here’s my personal favorite example:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn

    “A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat to feed his chickens. The U.S. government had imposed limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to drive up wheat prices during the Great Depression, and Filburn was growing more than the limits permitted. Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops and pay a fine, even though he was producing the excess wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it.”

  15. tz says:

    So like the toxic toys bill where Mattel investigates Mattel and the small places were killed, this is another gift to the corporatist kleptocrats. The original 1914 pure food and drug act empowered individuals. This empowers bureaucrats that will do to agribusiness what the fed and treasury did to banks – bailed them out and gave them taxpayer money, no one goes to jail, and they get huge bonuses.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I disagree, because I interpret your statement to essentially say that the FDA should have less power. The FDA has brought more accountability to the health care industry, and if it again puts focus on the food industry, there can be safety improvements there as well.

  16. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    …can we give them the authority to ban “medicines” and “supplements” that haven’t been shown to do what the package says in legitimate clinical trials? Like…everything that isn’t actual medicine, like homeopathic crap?

  17. Hi_Hello says:

    rather than giving the FDA more power, can’t we just give the USDA some power? Didn’t the last egg issue had something to do with USDA finding problems but they couldn’t do anything so they told the FDA who didn’t do anything until there was a massive recall?

  18. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    So much for local raw milk. Thanks, Congress!!

  19. EverCynicalTHX says:

    Sorry big industrialist food giants like Monsanto..bill may be DOA – let’s hope!

    A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.

    By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.

    The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.

    Section 107 of the bill includes a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers, which are technically taxes under the Constitution. According to a House GOP leadership aide, that section has ruffled the feathers of Ways and Means Committee Democrats, who are expected to use the blue slip process to block completion of the bill.

  20. maryland157 says:

    The FDA when it comes to the food supply is worthless and I doubt this bill will change things. Just look at all the recent food recalls, the tomato scare a few years ago is one of them. The FDA was blaming tomatoes for some outbreak of a food borne illness. The place I worked at the time stopped selling them and I know a lot of other places did too. Affecting the stores sales, the tomato farmers and everyone in between. All when it turned out it was peppers that were the cause for the outbreak.