Senate Adopts Food Safety bill
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
In the wake of this year’s spate of food-borne illnesses, the Senate on Tuesday morning passed the most comprehensive food safety bill since the 1930s.
S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, grants new regulatory authority to the Food and Drug Administration, charges food producers with responsibility for maintaining safety of the food supply, and for the first time institutes inspection rules and safety standards for imported foods.
The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in July 2009 and sent it to the Senate, where it languished until now. Angered by the Senate’s delay, in Jul 2010 Rep. John Dingell (D-MI15) wrote
This is the most awesomely frustrating thing I’ve ever undergone. Seventy-six million people are sickened by bad food in this country every year, 300,000 go to the hospital and 5,000 die. And the Senate sits on this bill like a hen on an egg.
The Senate vote was 73-25, giving optimists cause to hope that cooperation may be making a comeback on the chamber floor.
As is the way of the Senate, the bill came up adorned with 18 proposed amendments, some unrelated to food safety. One had to do with removal of an obnoxious paperwork requirement tucked into the health care bill that nobody will hate to see go away. Another relieved small farms with mainly local customers and sales less than $500,000 a year from the proposed law’s paperwork and inspection requirements.
It’s too soon after the vote to determine which of the 18 survived, but these two are the most likely — and the most friendly to truly small enterprises.
The House bill, while not specifically exempting farms that do business locally and at farmers’ markets, instructed the FDA to take into account their specific needs, which would have opened the door to regulations that would do the same thing the Senate amendment proposes.
Since the two bills differ on some points, the possibility exists that the measure won’t make it through a conference committee convened to adjust the language. But indications are that the House leadership will push for acceptance of the Senate version, thereby speeding the bill on its way to the President’s desk for his signature. There is no doubt he will sign.