Senate Passes Most Comprehensive Food Safety Bill in 70 Years
Cookie dough, spinach, jalapenos and peanuts with a dash of salmonella or a pinch of E. coli made a recipe for what’s being called “The biggest U.S. food safety overhaul in… 70 years.” The U.S. Senate passed the measure today in a 73-25 vote, greatly reducing the likelihood Americans will have to stomach food-borne illnesses.
Nine people died and more than 700 serious illnesses were reported directly related to a 2008-2009 spate of tainted foods sold from neighborhood supermarkets triggering record setting food recalls. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, under the leadership of Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, took action almost immediately, crafting the measure and then unanimously approving it. A year later, the bill came to the full Senate vote that resulted in today’s passage, the first such action of its kind since the participants were born.
“It’s shocking to think that the last comprehensive overhaul of the food-safety system was in 1938,” said Senator Harkin, the committee head. “Food safety has too often become a hit-or-miss gamble. That is frightening, and it’s unacceptable.”
Bottom line figures estimate food-borne illnesses cost Americans around $150 billion every year.
Today’s bill gives more power to the FDA allowing it to mandate food recalls if businesses and manufacturers do not do so voluntarily. The FDA can now require retail establishments to inform their customers if they have purchased contaminated items, or at least that such items have been sold through their store. It also increases the FDA’s ability to track down sources of contamination and to beef up disease surveillance to increase outbreak prevention.
Some of the funding for the more aggressive FDA approach will come from non-compliance fees. In other words, if you grow or process food, you better make sure your factory is ship-shape when the FDA inspector comes around or you’ll be paying a hefty fine. High-risk manufacturers including egg farms, spinach and peanut growers, to name a few, will receive more frequent inspections.