Food Safety Bill Approved by Congress
12/22/2010 -A food safety bill (H.R. 2751)has been approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. President Obama has announced that he will sign the bill,possibly as early as today.
Under the measure (.pdf), companies that manufacture, process, pack, distribute, receive, hold, or import food would be required to implement safety measures to protect that food from contamination. Companies would be required to test these measures on an ongoing basis and document the outcomes. The government would establish regulations to prevent the intentional adulteration of food.
To prevent contamination from e-coli and salmonella, companies that produce and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables would be required to establish science-based minimum standards for safety.
Under the bill, the government would inspect facilities based on how great a risk contamination or adulteration would pose to the public. Companies would pay a fee to fund the inspection program.
The government would implement a program to better track fruits and vegetables so that the source of a foodborne illness outbreak could be more easily established. Companies would be required to submit food shipment and sales records to the government as part of this program. The government would also establish a pilot program to track processed food.
(For more on how researchers at Kingston University in London leveraged European Union data to analyze which countries exported the most contaminated food stuffs into the region, read "Finding Food Security Solutions," by former Assistant Editor Stephanie Berrong.)
Under the bill, the government can force a company to issue a recall, if it introduces contaminated or adulterated food into the food chain. Under current law, the government can only suggest a recall.
U.S. food importers would be required to perform risk assessments on foreign suppliers to verify that imported food is produced in compliance with applicable safety requirements. The government would issue guidance to assist U.S. importers in developing foreign supplier verification programs.
An amendment exempts small-scale producers that sell most of their food directly to consumers within their state or within a 275-mile radius of where it was produced.
Photo bySimon Shek/Flickr