Food Safety Bill Stalls in Senate

Last summer group of senators announced a <"">food safety bill that would have given the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enhanced responsibility to ensure the nation’s food safety. The bill would have provided the FDA with mandatory recall authority, mandate the agency increase its frequency of food facility inspections, better enable the hiring of new safety inspectors, and enable the FDA access to food producer records. Now, the bill, which has been sitting in the Senate since last summer, said AOL News, is not expected to pass this year.

Recently, Democrats tried to urge the bill on following the massive Salmonella egg outbreak that resulted in about a-half billion eggs being recalled and revelations of horrific conditions at two major egg producers.

“We’re not going to be able to get this done before we go home for the elections,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on the Senate floor, said CQ Politics. The reform cleared the house in July 2009, noted AOL News.

Opposition from, for example Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, delayed and ultimately quashed the bill, said AOL News. According to Coburn, he would continue his blocking of the bill until Democrats could determine how to manage the bill’s costs, said AOL News, noting hat the bill is expected to cost $1.4 billion over five years. Coburn also described the bill as containing “weak mechanisms” with “ineffective implementation,” quoted AOL News.

“Without paying for this bill, at best we are just passing it for a press release, and at worst, we shackle the FDA with unfunded mandates,” said a memo from Coburn’s office, quoted AOL News.

Bill advocates say the bill is critical to protecting the public’s health, citing a growing number of food borne related illness outbreaks and recalls that have been making headlines.

As of this summer, the bill included, in part, changes and additions surrounding hazard analysis and preventative controls; imported foods and foreign suppliers; inspections; mandatory recall authority; regulatory balance, for instance concerning training; surveillance; traceback and the establishment of a pilot traceback project; and increased resourcing and funding, said CBS News.

We recently wrote that a report issued by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council stated that the FDA needs to step up food safety operations, according to a prior Associated Press (AP) article. The report faulted the agency’s efficiency, saying it needs to use its limited funds to prevent food borne illness outbreaks and that the FDA does not have what it takes to protect consumers and has a tendency to be reactive, not preventative. The report suggests the agency concentrate on outbreak prevention in the riskiest foods and not case-by-case responses, wrote the AP.

The FDA is responsible for the safety of most of the nation’s food supply—some 80 percent—such as seafood, dairy, and produce as well as having oversight for over 150,000 food facilities, over one million restaurants and food establishments, and over two million farms, according to the AP, previously.

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