Food Safety Bill Moves Forward in Senate

The long awaited <"">food safety bill that was readying for Senate approval yesterday is moving forward, following a chamber vote of 74-25 to proceed, said the Associated Press (AP).

Following Republican Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s objection to the bill in its prior form—over issues regarding how to pay for the potential $1.4 billion it will likely take to pay for reforms—bill supporters required 60 votes, said the AP.

Passage of the bill has been fraught with challenges due to bipartisan issues and concern about providing the U.S. food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased oversight over industry concerns. Given the overwhelming amount of food borne illness outbreaks, industry has had no choice but to back increased agency regulation in the face of consistent issues pointing to a broken food safety program.

The bill will change the frequency and processes surrounding food facility inspection, what sort of research efforts will be put in place for traceback activities, and how recalls are implemented. The bill, said the AP, will allow the FDA increased authority to recall contaminated food products.

Of note, a similar version of the bill passed in the House over one year ago. The Senate bill will still have to be collaborated with the House version that is costlier and is constructed with stricter food producer demands, said NPR.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue on two amendments to the bill, said the AP. Senator Jon Tester (Democrat-Montana) is seeking an exemption for small growers, saying, “foodborne illnesses don’t come from family agriculture,” quoted NPR yesterday. It is Senator Tester’s contention that the issues originate from larger producers.

While Tester argues that the bill’s demands could bankrupt smaller farms, advocates feel Tester is exaggerating the issue and says that food safety is more important than farm size, wrote the AP.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein requested a ban on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food and containers and the exemption for small farmers and food producers from some of the regulations. BPA is a controversial polycarbonate plastic used in many consumer products and which has been linked via hundreds of studies to adverse health reactions.

“We are still trying to work out details of an agreement, but chemical industry lobbyists are doing everything in their power to block any progress on the issue,” Feinstein said, quoted the AP.

In response to the bill’s vote, President Barack Obama said that the legislation would speak to “long-standing challenges” experienced at the FDA by assisting food producers in the prevention of foodborne illness outbreaks and providing the government with additional tools to ensure food safety, reported the AP.

Help filing claims and other legal assistance for victims of foodborne illness is available at <"">

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