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]