Senate passes bill to boost food safety

Senate passes bill to boost food safety (AP)
In this Nov. 16, 2010 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Food and Drug Administration would have to step up inspections of food processors under legislation the Senate is expected to pass this week. The bill, which has stalled in that chamber for more than a year, would give the FDA authority to order a recall of tainted products. Today, the agency must negotiate with sellers of tainted food to do a voluntary recall. The bill would also require food manufacturers and farms to follow stricter standards to keep food safe. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(AP) -- The Senate passed legislation Tuesday to make food safer in the wake of deadly E. coli and salmonella outbreaks, potentially giving the government broad new powers to increase inspections of food processing facilities and force companies to recall tainted food.

The $1.4 billion bill, which would also place stricter standards on imported foods, passed the Senate 73-25. Supporters say passage is critical after widespread outbreaks in peanuts, eggs and produce.

Those outbreaks have exposed a lack of resources and authority at the FDA as the embattled agency struggled to contain and trace the contaminated products. The agency rarely inspects many food facilities and farms, visiting some every decade or so and others not at all.

The bill would emphasize prevention so the agency could try to stop outbreaks before they begin. Farmers and food processors would have to tell the how they are working to keep their food safe at different stages of production.

Despite wide bipartisan support and backing from many major food companies, the legislation stalled as it came under fire from advocates of buying locally produced food and operators of small farms, who said it would could bankrupt some small businesses. Senators eventually agreed to exempt some of those operations from costly food safety plans required of bigger companies, rankling food safety advocates and larger growers but gaining support from farm-state senators.

Senate sponsors further softened the bill's impact on the - including eliminating some fees processors would have to pay and reducing the number of required inspections - to gain votes in the Senate and to make the bill more palatable in the House. Members of both parties voiced concern about the legislation's impact on small farms and businesses when a different version of the bill passed that chamber in 2009.

The bill's prospects are unclear since there is little time during the brief lame-duck congressional session for the House and Senate to reconcile different versions. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the sponsor of the Senate legislation, said he has agreement from some members in the House to pass the Senate bill, which would send the legislation straight to President Barack Obama's desk.

Senators rejected several unrelated amendments to the bill, including an amendment to place a moratorium on earmarks, or pet projects in lawmakers' states and districts, and one to repeal an arcane tax provision that helps pay for President Barack Obama's new health care law. Supporters said the amendments would have killed the bill's chances in the House.

The Senate legislation would:

-Allow the FDA to order a recall of tainted foods. Currently the agency can only negotiate with businesses to order voluntary recalls;

-Require larger food processors and manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration and create detailed plans;

-Require the FDA to create new produce safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables;

-Establish stricter standards for the safety of imported food;

-Increase inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities, directing the most resources to those operations with the highest risk profiles.

The bill would not apply to meat, poultry or processed eggs, which are regulated by the Agriculture Department. Those foods have long been subject to much more rigorous inspections and oversight than FDA-regulated foods.

The federal Centers for Disease Control has estimated that tens of millions of Americans are sickened and thousands die from foodborne illnesses each year.

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Nov 30, 2010
The US currently has one of the safest food supplies in the world, so why are large food producers ok with this bill? Because it is going to increase food prices and drive out small food producers. Why does the Government and progressives like this bill? More unionized workers, more dues going to the democrats.

Nov 30, 2010
Will more regulation, more red tape, more government intervention solve these problems? If that were true then we would be living in a fairy tale. Guaranteed in 5 years you take a survey on the efficacy of these new powers and regulations and there will be no change.

Nov 30, 2010 the government broad new powers...

Ho-hum. Dog bites man. So what else is new? Doesn't seem to matter which party is in power, all we get is changes in which groups get screwed and which get preferences.

The only thing Orwell got wrong was the year.

Dec 01, 2010
If you think todays world is anything like 1984 you clearly never read 1984.

Dec 01, 2010
What they passed was a bill that increases the regulatory burden on food producers, without providing any actual quality-testing/disease-monitoring structure to insure the quality or safety of the food we eat.

It has the additional tonic effect of putting a severe, if not killing stress upon small and medium food-producing businesses. Your local Farmer's Market may soon be a thing of the past, unless you count Monsanto, Del Monte, Simplot, ADM, et al, as true representatives of the traditional Farmer's Market.

Also, kiss your GNC, Herbalife, and similar supplements good bye, as, under the new "Food Safety" bill these sorts of products will become the exclusive province of Big Pharma, under the "harmonization" with Codex Alimentarius provisions also contained in the bill.

Bon Apetit!

Dec 01, 2010
Yeah the best regulation would be mandatory corporate transparency. When people can actually see how their food is being produced, they can make their own choices about what they want to buy, without government regulation. Without transparency, consumers are not free to make these choices. So most of these government regulations could be scrapped and replaced with a single regulation: "no trade secrets". Information is the friend of every honest man, only a crook has something to hide.

Dec 01, 2010
If you think todays world is anything like 1984 you clearly never read 1984.

I never said we were there yet, but all the trend lines point there at some time in the next several decades. Governments just keep accruing power to themselves, the ruling elites just keep getting more distant from the "small people", and those trends are accelerating exponentially.

We are overspending and overgoverning ourselves into oblivion. Once the inevitable worldwide economic crash hits, we will have always been at war with Eastasia. Then get back to me on how 1984 will never happen.

And as a matter of fact, I read the book a long time ago, when the Cold War was at its height. I thought that when the Wall fell, the world had finally purged itself of communism. All that happened was that they changed their name to Marxists instead, and took over the universities. I never in my wildest nightmares thought we'd elect one president.

Dec 01, 2010
Typical Progressive junk. Even though I think I shouldnt, It won't even cover beef.


But perhaps this is the plan, now they an excuse and can write another 10000 page bill that no one will read, to regulate beef.

However the good news about this bill is that this so called food safety bill is actually a tax, and the democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originates in the House.


Progressives hate it when people read the bill then apply the constitution....

Dec 01, 2010
"...the democrats violated a constitutional provision..."

Constitution? Democrats don' need no steenkeen' constitution!

Former (thank the FSM!) Rep Phil Hare (D-IL) says he doesn't care about the constitution. Re-elected (in CA - figures) lunatic Rep Pete Stark (D) says the federal government can do whatever it wants. Our Community-Organizer-in-Chief (D) thinks the constitution is deficient because it doesn't demand redistribution of wealth.

And the legal profession, one of the Democrats' largest supporters, has been trained in Critical Legal Studies or its offshoots for decades. CLS says that the constitution is "just words", to be defined as whatever a judge wants it to be.

Dec 01, 2010
geokstr, I can understand your concern, obviously nobody wants to be in a 1984 like world. However, I think that's a bit of a stretch. The society from 1984 could not exist without the willful collusion of a large portion of the population, against it's own self interests, and for all our faults and occasional lapses of idiocy, most humans are not going to work for a 1984 like society, but against. Revolution would be the name of the game if it came to that, and I think you and I (and most others) would be more then happy to do our part to make sure it never came to be. We're still a long way from that at this point, but only time will tell where the future brings us.

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