Food Safety Bill Passes Senate, Inspires Skepticism

As expected, the highly anticipated <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety bill that received approval to proceed earlier this month has passed in the Senate. A similar bill previously passed in the House; however, the Senate must be collaborated with the House version that is costlier and constructed with stricter food producer demands. The legislation passed by a vote of 73 to 25, said the New York Times, and was constructed to increase oversight to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

President Obama, long a supporter of improving the nation’s food safety said, “With the Senate’s passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, we are one step closer to having critically important new tools to protect our nation’s food supply and keep consumers safe,” quoted the NY Times.

Both the Senate and House bills increase FDA power over issuing food recalls, increase facility inspections, mandate food producer accountability, and increase farm activity oversight, said the NY Times, which noted that neither version compresses redundant U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—and other entities—food safety and oversight functions. This ongoing duplication has created significant coordination issues.

Many consider the House version superior because it was written with less exceptions and includes inspection funding. “This is a historic moment,” said Erik Olson, deputy director of advocacy group, the Pew Health Group, quoted the NY Times. “For the first time in over 70 years, the Senate has approved an overhaul of FDA’s food safety law that will help ensure that the food we put on our kitchen tables will be safer,” he added.

Critics say, wrote CNN, that the Senate bill lacks sufficient oversight of imported foods and U.S. facility inspections. Most experts are pleased with the FDA’s ability to mandate food recalls under the proposed bill as well as proposed improvements to determine contaminated food sources and mandates that food producers provide documented food safety plans that are government accessible, said CNN.

“Food safety is one area where the public clearly wants the government to act to protect them,” said Sandra Eskin, director of food safety campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts, quoted CNN. “We can’t tell if food is contaminated unless of course we have laboratories in our own kitchen,” Eskin pointed out.

One problem, say some experts, is that the FDA has not been adequately aggressive in locating and stopping outbreaks, wrote CNN. For instance, according to Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, “The FDA’s approach is: We assume food is safe unless there is a problem,” quoted CNN.

And, while the bill makes some positive steps toward preventing foodborne pathogenic outbreaks that have crippled small growers and sickened scores, even killing consumers, the new bill does not allow the agency to file criminal charges against those food producers who intentionally place tainted food in consumer hands, noted CNN,

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety in Washington agrees, saying that the bill does not provide the FDA with the “teeth” needed to ensure adequate regulation, wrote CNN.

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