The Senate approved a stalled food safety bill Nov. 30 which authorizes increased governmental regulation of food producers’ safety measures.
“Food safety is one area where the public clearly wants the government to act to protect them,” said Sandra Eskin, director of food safety campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “We can’t tell if food is contaminated unless of course we have laboratories in our own kitchen.”
Under the new legislation:
-The FDA would have the authority to mandate direct food recalls, rather than relying on producers to voluntarily issue recalls.
-Food producers would be required to develop written food safety plans. These would include hazard analysis and a plan for implementing corrective measures.
– The Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to create a food tracing system that would streamline the process of finding the source of contamination, should an outbreak occur.
– Importers would be required to verify the safety of all imported foods to make sure it’s in accordance with U.S. food safety guidelines.
Despite applause for the bipartisan legislation, some supporters say the bill isn’t strong enough. According to CNN, some organization officials argue the bill doesn’t give FDA the authority to file charges against producers who knowingly put contaminated food on the market.
Opponents of the bill say it may lead to higher food prices and allow extremely centralized governmental control over food producers.
However, a technical flaw may hinder the bill’s final progress through the legislative process. The bill contains a section that authorizes the FDA to impose fees on food producers who issue recalls. Such revenue-raising measures must originate in the House according to the Constitution, not the Senate.
House and Senate leaders were said to be working on a compromise which would put the bill on President Obama’s desk for signature before the end of the year, a Senate aide with knowledge of the situation told AFP.