Food Safety Measure Approved by House
The U.S. House approved a massive overhaul of food safety laws yesterday, July 30, voting 283 to 142. The bipartisan passing of the bill will now go to the Senate. The measure approves $3.5 billion to direct the Food and Drug Administration to write new regulations. These will hopefully safeguard the food supply, require more inspections of plants, and force food companies to keep better track of records so that outbreaks of bacteria like E. coli and trichinosis can be traced by regulators. To help finance the bill, food producers will have to pay a $500 annual fee, which is expected to generate nearly $1.4 billion over the next five years.
This is in response to the increased number of food-borne illnesses that have sickened and killed consumers over the last several years. This is also a bid to help producers left reeling after losing consumers to other products.
Though some in the House worry that more power has been given to bureaucrats who regulate farms and factories hundreds or thousands of miles away, as well as raised the concern of higher food prices, the Grocer Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, which represents Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc., two of the largest supermarket chains in the country, are pleased. Both groups say it is important the FDA have the resources it needs to ensure the safety of the food supply, and agree it was time for a modernization of the regulations.
The FDA will now have the authority to enforce a mandatory recall of food products it views harmful. The agency also will now be able to quarantine food to restrict its movement across the country. The bill also requires over 350,000 foreign and domestic food facilities to be inspected more often than they are. This follows recalls of tainted cookie dough, pepper, spinach and peanuts.
Many groups, industry, private, and in-between, have wondered how long it would be before there was some type of reform in the Food and Drug Administration. With the large number of illness and death over the last couple of years, concern over gaps in the food safety net has been growing. Hopefully this is the beginning of closing them to avoid large numbers of illness and death from eating tainted food in the future.