The ailing US food safety system moved closer to towards its biggest overhaul in more than 70 years after the House of Representatives passed legislation that would increase inspections and give regulators the power to recall tainted foods. The Bill, named the FDA Food Safety Modernisation Act, was passed with a 215-144 vote. The legislation would empower the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to order a food recall when a company refuses the agency’s request to do so voluntarily.
It requires the FDA to inspect food facilities more often, expand its access to food facility records, and requires food producers and processors to identify possible hazards and develop prevention plans. The legislation also aims to make imported food safer by calling for more inspections of foreign food production facilities and requiring importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food.
The legislation has already been passed by the Senate and will now be sent to the President, who has supported the measure and is expected to sign it into law. “This is an opportunity that will not come again for a long time,” said Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. There is no question that this is a good Bill, and that it will provide the US FDA with some critical new authority.”
Pressure to overhaul the food safety system had grown following several high-profile outbreaks involving lettuce, peppers, peanuts, spinach and most recently eggs since 2006 that have sickened thousands and shaken the public’s confidence in the safety of the food supply.
The legislation would be the largest overhaul of US food safety laws since 1938, when Congress gave the FDA the authority to give the safety of food, drugs and cosmetics. Since then the food supply has grown into a vast network dependent on more fresh foods and imported products, but oversight laws have largely failed to keep pace.
This is a big victory for consumers that finally brings food safety laws into the 21st century,” said Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiative at Consumers Union. “For a long time we have been saying that we needed to do a better job of making sure our food is safe, and under this Bill, we will,” she said.