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Food Safety Bill Likely to Get Renewed Attention from Congress

September 1, 2010


Food Safety Bill Likely to Get Renewed Attention from Congress

Due to the recent high-profile recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, food safety issues have are likely to receive considerable attention from Congress this month. Even before the egg recall, the Senate was poised to move forward with a bipartisan bill, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), as soon as it returns from the summer break the week of September 13th. The Senate released its manager’s package in August, which can be found on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee website.

The House of Representatives passed a food safety reform and modernization package, HR 2749, in July of 2009. Since that time, the Congressional Budget Office has rescored the cost to inspect food facilities, which led to a major change in the Senate’s manager’s package introduced this month.

NMPF favors the Senate bill, S. 510, to the House passed bill, HR 2749, for the following reasons. The Senate version:

  1. Does not contain registration fees to offset the cost of the bill’s inspection requirements, but pays through appropriations, unlike the House bill.
  2. Includes the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance as a compatible program to the FDA inspections, and would not be redundant or duplicative with regard to inspections and forms not included in the House.
  3. Increases foreign inspections, but consistent with international trade obligations.
  4. Ensures third-party auditors will have specific clarification and agreements with FDA.
  5. Requires FDA to report to Congress annually on the subject and scope of recalls or public health advisories.
  6. Exempts small farms and small businesses under some conditions. Farms under this provision are those that do not provide food currently regulated by FDA. Dairy and eggs already fall under FDA jurisdiction.

Congress will likely make this a priority to pass and send to the President before the election in November. It is one of the few bipartisan bills awaiting floor action in the Senate. However, a compromise between the House and Senate packages could be more difficult, given some vast differences.