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Georgia’s state Senate passes food safety bill

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 20-Feb-2009
Last updated on 23-Feb-2009 at 14:11 GMT

Georgia’s state Senate has passed a watered down food safety bill on Wednesday which would require compulsory tests for contamination in some instances.

The bill, which passed 50-0, was introduced by Senator John Bulloch in response to the salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America’s Blakely, Georgia plant.

Senate bill 80 would require food processors to report any contamination they find within 24 hours to the state Department of Agriculture, and instructs the Commissioner of Agriculture to “establish requirements for regular testing of samples or specimens of foods and ingredients by food processing plants.” It would also give food safety authorities “free access at all reasonable hours” to any site where food is made, processed or packaged, and the power to inspect records of contaminant tests.

Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “It is a good first step… especially in light of what happened at the PCA.”

Last-minute amendment

However, a significant amendment was introduced by Senator Bulloch at the last minute, allowing for food processors to be exempted from testing if they draw up a food safety plan which is approved by the state.

Waldrop expressed concerns about a lack of detailed description in terms of what is required of these food safety plans or how often checks would have to take place.

“The concern I have is that it doesn’t specifically lay out the degree of testing,” he said. “…The level of testing would be left up to the company.”

Senator Bulloch was not available for comment prior to publication.

The bill would become law after approval by the state Governor, or by passing into law without that approval.

The current salmonella outbreak has caused 654 illnesses across 44 states and may have contributed to nine deaths, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The PCA plant linked to the outbreak is in Bulloch’s district.

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