Food-Borne Safety Bill Signed But in Trouble

Each year, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 48 million people, that is one in six Americans, are sickened by food-borne illnesses. Of those, 180,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
The first major overhaul of the nation’s food-safety infrastructure since 1938 was signed into law yesterday by President Obama.
The Food Safety Modernization Act moves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) away from its early-20th-century role of responding to adulterated food to a more modern one of requiring companies to stop contamination before it happens by looking for the places where things can go wrong and fixing them.
It also allows the FDA to issue mandatory recalls and hire more food-safety inspectors.
The FDA oversees most of the nation’s food supply, except for meat, poultry and processed eggs, which are the purview of the Department of Agriculture.
Much of the food industry had supported the new rules, saying they would raise the bar for the entire food industry in the words of a statement signed by 20 organizations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association.
But, Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, the incoming Republican chairman of the agriculture subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee has said he may not allow funding of the new system, thereby scuttling the entire program.
Republicans will control the House of Representatives when Congress reconvenes today.
Rep. Rosa DeLAuro, who most recently chaired the committee, called the new law “a significant step forward in modernizing our country’s antiquated food-safety systems.”
DeLauro, who first proposed food-safety legislation in 1999, noted the food system still makes people sick. At the same time as Kingston is questioning the money for the FDA’s enhanced food-safety oversight, the FDA announced “that a salmonella outbreak involving alfalfa sprouts had sickened nearly 100 people in at least 15 states,” she said.
Food safety isn’t a partisan issue, said Carol Tucker-Foreman, with the Consumer Federation of America.

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