One Day After Rejection, Food Safety Bill Passes

Just one day after the U.S. House shot down a bill meant to toughen the federal <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety system, the legislation passed the House under a rule that only required a minority vote. The originally proposed food safety bill failed earlier this week over fears its passage would overwhelm America’s small farmers.

The country has been hammered with dangerous, and often deadly, food pathogen contamination outbreaks such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Food safety concerns were particularly heightened following the massive salmonella outbreak that was 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 Barack Obama, said the Washington Post last month, who called for an FDA and food safety system overhaul.

The bill was initially rejected in a close vote of 280-150, losing by just eight votes. Yesterday, the bill passed by a vote of 283-142, said the Associated Press (AP).

Under the new legislation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to receive additional authority and resources for the prevention of food borne illnesses, said the Wall Street Journal. Revisions were called for 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.

The passing votes came after concessions were won that would ease farms from some of the originally proposed limits. For instance, farms would be exempt from these fees, FDA access to farm records would be limited, and the FDA would only be permitted access to set standards for foods likeliest to be tainted, explained the Journal. Also under the new legislation, those facilities currently regulated by the USDA would be exempt from FDA purview, noted the Journal.

What will change is that the FDA will step up inspections, order recalls, and mandate to companies how to maintain records, said the Journal, explaining that the revised record keeping will better enable tracking when contaminations do occur. Most, not all, food companies will have to register with the FDA and pay a $500 annual per-facility fee, added the Journal.

Recently appointed FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg said, “I think food safety has been unattended to for many, many years, and that has compromised the ability of the agency to fulfill its important mission with regard to assuring the safety and wholesomeness of the food supply,” quoted the Journal. “This is the time to really make a very concerted effort,” she added. The agency has been harshly criticized in recent years for neglect, corruption, and a lack of focus, to name a few issues.

Now, said Hamburg, a deputy commissioner position is planned to manage food safety and additional food inspectors are intended, said the Journal. The major concern is funding because, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the House’s bill requirements will run about $2.2 billion—over five years—in excess of the monies expected from registration fees.

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