Senate passes food safety overhaul
by Jay Sjerven
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate this morning voted 73 to 25 to approve the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, which, if enacted, would give the nation’s food safety system its first major overhaul in 70 years. The measure long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Senate. Its passage was delayed until the lame duck session primarily because of objections raised by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, which required the bill to run a gauntlet of procedural votes before advancing to the final tally.
The House of Representatives passed its version of food safety reform legislation, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, on July 30, 2009. The House leadership now must decide whether to pass the Senate version of the bill, which House Democratic leaders indicated they may consider in view of pressing business and time constraints, or request a conference with the Senate to resolve differences and produce a joint bill that may be passed and sent to the president.
Both Senate and House bills would require food facilities, foreign and domestic, to develop and implement plans for preventive controls to minimize the risk of food contamination, greatly increase the frequency of Food and Drug Administration inspections of food facilities, and provide the F.D.A. with mandatory recall authority. But there were differences including the House bill’s levying of an annual facility registration fee to help defray the costs of increased inspections while the Senate bill contained no such provision.
The American Bakers Association congratulated the Senate on its passage of the reform.
“This is a sound and balanced approach to food safety in the U.S.,” said Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the A.B.A. “It gives F.D.A. needed tools to ensure consumers have confidence in our food by building on the industry’s good manufacturing processes.”
For its part, the A.B.A. provided a comprehensive food safety white paper entitled, “Addressing Food Safety Issues and Concerns: The Bakers’ Perspective,” to members of Congress with recommendations to improve the U.S. food safety system. The recommendations included steps that may be taken for more effective and efficient traceability.
“A.B.A. successfully used the white paper as a consensus tool with other food industry organizations, F.D.A. and key congressional members that helped frame the Senate bill,” said Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the A.B.A.
The A.B.A. is expected to continue its ongoing dialogue with food industry partners and key food safety officials at the F.D.A. and on Capitol Hill. Additionally, the A.B.A. and its partners will continue to work together to improve food safety while not creating overly burdensome regulations.
“A.B.A. urges the House of Representatives to quickly pass the Senate bill without changes before adjournment of the 111th Congress,” Mr. MacKie said.