Senate Expected to Approve Food Safety Bill This Week

The highly publicized food safety bill that received approval to proceed earlier this month is expected to pass this week, the Associated Press (AP) just announced. The long awaited <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety bill, which was preparing for Senate approval, received a chamber vote of 74-25 to proceed in mid-November.

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 foodborne 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. According to the AP, the bill has been stalled in the Senate for over one year.

A similar version of the bill passed in the House over one year ago; however, 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.

Under current mandates, the FDA lacks the authority to issue recalls of tainted food; however, under the proposed bill, the FDA will be able to not only announce recalls—as it does today—but can implement recalls versus negotiating with industry. This change is critical to supporters who hope that the agency will soon be able to prevent outbreaks, especially in the wake of a year plauged with foodborne illness outbreaks.

The AP pointed out that the outbreaks have pointed to a need for increased resources at the agency and the need for increased authority there as well as for increased inspections at food facilities, another area in which the agency has fallen short. Under the bill, 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 will all change.

Although broadly supported, followers expressed concern over how revisions would affect smaller farms, which many felt could fall victim to bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Senator Jon Tester (Democrat-Montana) sought an exemption for small growers, saying, “foodborne illnesses don’t come from family agriculture,” quoted NPR.

It was Senator Tester’s contention that issues originate from larger producers. While Tester argued that the bill’s demands could bankrupt smaller farms, advocates argued that Tester exaggerated the issue, saying food safety is more important than farm size, wrote the AP previously. Some smaller operators were granted exemption prior to the Congressional Thanksgiving break, said the AP.

Help filing claims and other legal assistance for victims of foodborne illness is available at <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">www.yourlawyer.com.

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