Lawmakers released a bipartisan agreement on the Senate’s food safety bill on Thursday, signaling that it is likely to be debated in the Senate when it reconvenes in September.
The Food Safety Modernization Act has been stalled in the Senate since it was passed unanimously by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in November, and a companion bill – the Food Safety Enhancement Act – passed the House more than a year ago, last July. Now Senate leaders have collaborated to release a manager’s package and Congressional Budget Office analysis.
The six Senators involved are HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY), authors of the Food Safety Modernization Act Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) and lead cosponsors Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Burr (R-NC).
They said in a joint statement: “Any 100-year-old plus structure – like our nation’s food safety system – needs improvements. With this announcement today, we aim to not just patch and mend our fragmented food safety system, we hope to reinforce the infrastructure, close the gaps and create a systematic, risk-based and balanced approach to food safety in the United States.
“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will place more emphasis on prevention of food borne illness and will provide new tools to respond to food safety problems.”
The amendment is available online here .
Two major issues remain unresolved in the manager’s package: Senator Jon Tester’s to exempt smaller businesses from some of the bill’s requirements and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s to restrict use of bisphenol A.
If passed, the Food Safety Modernization Act would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to order product recalls, increase the frequency of plant inspections, and require all facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food to have risk-based preventive control plans in place to tackle to hazards and prevent adulteration.
The bill has gained broad consumer and industry support, including from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Restaurant Association and the Trust for America’s Health.
The bill follows a spate of US foodborne illness outbreaks, including the salmonella outbreak linked to tainted peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America last year when nine people died and more than 700 fell ill.
According to figures from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 300,000 people in the United States are hospitalized every year due to foodborne illness, and about 5,000 die.