Foodborne illnesses are a serious problem affecting tens of millions of Americans every year. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 76 million get sick, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 – or 14 people a day - die.
A massive, historic food safety bill aims to change these numbers by giving the government broad new powers to increase inspections of food processing plants and authority to force food companies to recall tainted food.
Passed by the Senate today, a key goal of the $1.4 billion Food Safety and Modernization Act is to prevent the large scale food contamination outbreaks seen in recent years. At this time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks adequate resources and authority to prevent, contain and trace contaminated products. Food processing facilities and farms are rarely inspected, if at all.
The law brings new safety regulations for the most at-risk fruits and vegetables; imposes stronger standards for imported foods; and requires larger food processing companies to develop detailed food safety programs. President Barack Obama urged the House to move quickly on the legislation.
Dietary supplements are also affected. The bill includes provisions aimed at keeping steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs out of dietary supplements and gives the FDA authority to recall those found unsafe. The bill also enables the sharing of information about harmful substances between the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The bill does not apply to meat, poultry or processed eggs, which are regulated by the Agriculture Department. Those foods have long been subject to much more rigorous inspections and oversight than FDA-regulated foods.
Washington Post: The Food Safety Bill
CNN: Advocates: Food safety bill doesn't have teeth
Gov Track: S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act