Food safety legislation could get Senate vote this week

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Salmonella, Foodborne illness

Long-stalled food safety legislation could reach the Senate’s agenda this week, while a coalition of 125 organizations continues to push for an amendment to exempt small businesses.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) intends to bring the Food Safety Modernization Act forward for a Senate vote on Wednesday, The Hill ​reports.

The bill has been stalled since it passed unanimously through committee last November. A companion bill, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, passed the House in July 2009, but Senate debate has been delayed due to a busy agenda, including addressing health care reform and jobs.

The bill was triggered by a spate of 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.

If passed, S. 510 would require food companies to submit detailed food safety plans, give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order product recalls, and allow it greater access to company records.

But some small farm advocates have argued that not all businesses can afford to pay for extra regulation, claiming that local and state regulations are sufficient to monitor food safety for small food businesses.

Senior farm policy analyst for the family farm advocacy group Cornucopia Institute Mark Kastel said: "Consumers are voting in rapidly increasing numbers to opt-out of the industrial food system by patronizing farmers markets, CSAs ​[Community Supported Agriculture], food cooperatives and other portals for local, sustainable and organic food in their communities.”

However, a consumer and public health coalition called the Make Our Food Safe Coalition has said exemptions for small businesses would undermine the goal of strengthening the food safety system.

Overall, the bill has attracted strong bipartisan support, as well as broad support from both industry and consumer groups. At the end of August, the Grocery Manufacturers Association again urged the Senate to vote on the bill as quickly as possible.

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