Senate passes food safety legislation
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to update and strengthen the nation's food safety regulations.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) passed by a vote of 73 to 25. The bill will now move to the House for consideration.
Erik D. Olson, director of the Pew Health Group food programs, called the legislation 'a major step toward improving how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration protects people from preventable illnesses that sicken millions and kill thousands of Americans every year.'
He referenced the recent examples of disease outbreaks related to contaminated foods, including eggs, lettuce, spinach, cookie dough, and peanut products, that have either sickened and killed many people.
“This legislation will guarantee stronger rules regarding the safety of imported foods, strengthen safety standards for food facilities and provide the FDA with the power to issue a mandatory recall of contaminated food, among other authorities,' Olson said. 'This is crucial because the FDA is responsible for the safety of 80 percent of the nation’s food supply.'
However, some major trade groups, including United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association, have withdrawn their support of the Senate bill due to an amendment that exempts small farms from the rules.
'Unfortunately, instead of adhering to a science- and risk-based approach that was consistently the foundation of the underlying bill, the Senate has chosen to include a provision that will exempt certain segments of the food industry based on the size of operation, geographic location and customer base,' said Robert Guenther, United Fresh's senior vice president of public policy. 'This provision creates a gaping hole in the ability of consumers to trust the safety of all foods in the commercial marketplace.'
'We stand firm that the entire produce industry must be committed to providing safe fruits and vegetables, no exceptions, because pathogens don't discriminate based on company size, commodity or distance to market,' added Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer for the Produce Marketing Association.
The produce industry, however, supports many reforms included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, such as:
' Requirements for written food safety plans.
' A broad view that addresses both U.S. and non-U.S. product.
' Mandatory recall authority for the FDA.
' Commodity-specific protocols for fresh produce.
'We strongly encourage the House leadership to request a conference to reconcile differences between the House-passed food safety legislation and the flawed Senate bill,' Guenther said. 'The House bill makes no arbitrary exemptions from basic food safety standards. This principle is at risk of being discarded for temporary convenience to pass a bill, but it is a fundamental mistake that will come back to haunt consumers, the food industry and even those producers who think they are escaping from food safety requirements.'