Last-minute move revives Food Safety Modernization Act

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Safety modernization act Food safety modernization

The US Senate unanimously passed the Food Safety Modernization Act late on Sunday, sending the bill back to the House where it is expected to pass before moving to the President’s desk.

The bill’s future looked to be under renewed threat after movement on the $1.1trn appropriations bill – to which the Food Safety Modernization Act had been attached – was abandoned late Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he did not have the votes to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011 and the Senate chose instead to pass a short-term spending extension that is set to expire in February.

However, Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached a deal that Republicans would not filibuster, and within minutes the bill had been unanimously approved and passed to the House.

Senator Reid told the Senate on Sunday that he had spoken to the Speaker, and said “this will pass the House when they come back Monday night or Tuesday.”

President Obama has said he will sign the bill, which would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to order product recalls, require food manufacturers to keep more detailed food safety plans, and allow the FDA greater access to food company records. The legislation is intended to shift food safety focus toward preventing foodborne illness outbreaks before they occur and is expected to cost $1.4bn over the next five years, including funding for 2,000 new inspectors.

The FDA is responsible for about 80 percent of the US food supply, but does not oversee the safety of meat, poultry or eggs, which come under the US Department of Agriculture’s remit.

This is the second time that the Senate has passed the bill. The first time, three weeks ago, it reached an impasse when it emerged that Senators had mistakenly included funding provisions that must originate in the House. The version passed on Sunday was amended to avoid that problem.

Following Senate passage of the bill, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Caroline Smith DeWaal said: “It is a huge victory for consumers following a weekend cliffhanger as both consumer and industry supporters prepared for bad news.”

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