Historic Food Safety Bill Clears Senate

One More Stop in House Required Before Presidential Signature

November 30, 2010

WASHINGTON—Historic food safety reform legislation passed the Senate today on a bipartisan 73 to 25 vote. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires every food processing facility to implement a food safety plan and requires the Food and Drug Administration to conduct more frequent inspections of the farms and factories that produce America’s food. The bill, which is the first major overhaul of food safety law for the Food and Drug Administration in 70 years, represents the culmination of over 10 years of research and advocacy by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Its passage was supported by a broad coalition of consumer and industry organizations, including many survivors of foodborne illness.

The House of Representatives must pass the Senate version before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. In July, the House passed an even stronger food safety bill with 283 votes.

“Everyone who eats will benefit from this historic legislation,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “FDA will have new tools to help ensure that America’s food supply is safer, causing fewer illnesses and deaths. Preventing contamination in the first place is paramount to reducing the health care and economic costs that are caused when unsafe food makes people sick.”

Every year, foodborne illness sends several hundred thousand Americans to the hospital and kills five thousand, according to CDC estimates.

Under current law, many peanut butter factories, spinach fields, and egg farms can go five or 10 years without a visit from an FDA inspector. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires high-risk producers to be inspected much more frequently. And importantly, it gives the FDA mandatory recall authority. Currently, the FDA can only ask companies to recall contaminated foods on a voluntary basis. The bill also sets responsible standards for produce safety and for the safety of imported food.

“And after every outbreak, we learn how infrequently some of America’s food processing facilities are inspected by authorities,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “This legislation will give Americans the confidence that the fruits, vegetables, seafood, eggs and packaged foods we serve our families are safe to eat.”

The bill has been stalled in the Senate for over a year and its passage was only possible after Senate leaders agreed to several weakening compromises, including exemptions for many smaller facilities and reductions in the frequency of inspections. CSPI hopes that all those shortcomings will be corrected in future years.

CSPI would like to thank Senators Durbin and Harkin for their long standing efforts on food safety culminating in the passage of this law.


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