Food Safety Bill Defeated in U.S. House

Despite the seeming plague of dangerous, and often deadly, food pathogen contamination outbreaks such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria in the United States, the U.S. House shot down a bill that would have toughened the federal <"">food safety system amid fears its passage would overwhelm this country’s small farmers.

The Obama administration has been working to toughen America’s food safety laws and reduce food contamination outbreaks. Unfortunately, the proposal was defeated over concerns that U.S. farmers would be ill equipped to handle the proposed law’s required paperwork and that an increase in facility inspections could not be guaranteed, said the Washington Post.

The Washington Post also explained that the bill—which was recently passed by bipartisan vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee—was debated under a ruling that limited debate time to 40 minutes, did not allow amendments, and required a two-thirds majority to pass. The bill lost by eight votes (280-150), with Democrats voting—for the most part—for passage, and Republicans—also, for the most part—voting against, said the Washington Post, which noted that in moves defying party lines, about four dozen Republicans voted for and two-dozen Democrats, against.

The bill, had it been passed, would have enabled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate food recalls—something outside of its current scope of responsibility—and to increase plant inspection scheduling, ensure food safety plans are in place at food manufacturing facilities, and provide the agency with access to company records, said the Washington Post.

“This is not the way to make law,” said Representative Frank Lucas (Oklahoma-Republican), quoted the Washington Post. Lucas led the opposition. Representative John Dingell (Michigan-Democrat) disagreed saying, quoted the Washington Post that, “This is a piece of legislation that will stop Americans being killed by bad foods.” Dingell, along with other senior members of the Energy and Commerce committee, drafted the bill and worked with lawmakers in farm states over concerns regarding fees, recording, and reporting.

Although the bill was expected to bring in about $189 million annually via registration fees, Lucas pointed out that it did not contain guarantees that the funds would be used for inspections, noted the Washington Post.

Minnesota Democratic Representative Collin Peterson, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, said revisions are needed to excuse grain and livestock producers from being required to pay registration fees and disallow the FDA from those areas in which the Agriculture Department (USDA) has responsibility.

Because the bill did receive nearly majority support, Democrats could ask for another vote that would only require a simple majority, said the Washington Post.

Food safety concerns have been heightened following the massive salmonella outbreak linked to horrendous conditions at the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Although a number of other deadly and widespread outbreaks have plagued the nation in recent years, it was the disgusting conditions and ongoing negligence involved in the PCA debacle that forced serious food safety reform. The scandals revealed during the outbreak highlighted myriad problems with current food safety processes and prompted attention from President Obama, said the Washington Post last month, who called for an FDA and food safety system overhaul.

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