A food safety bill (S. 510) received new life last night when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) overcame procedural objections to the bill by adding it as an amendment to another provision (H.R. 2751). The House bill, formerly a measure to aid in consumer recycling programs, was stripped of its original language and the text of S. 510 was inserted. The Senate then approved the measure. Now, H.R. 2751 will go back to the House of Representatives for a vote. The bill has bipartisan support in the House and is expected to pass as early as tomorrow. President Obama has announced that he will sign the bill.
Under the measure, companies that manufacture, process, pack, distribute, receive, hold, or import food would be required to implement safety measures to protect that food from becoming contaminated. Companies would be required to test these measures on an ongoing basis and document the outcomes. The government would establish regulations to prevent the intentional adulteration of food.
To prevent contamination from e-coli and salmonella, companies that produce and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables would be required to establish science-based minimum standards for safety.
Under the bill, the government would inspect facilities based on how great a risk contamination or adulteration would pose to the public. Companies would pay a fee to fund the inspection program.
The government would implement a program to better track fruits and vegetables so that the source of a foodborne illness outbreak could be more easily established. Companies would be required to submit food shipment and sales records to the government as part of this program. The government would also establish a pilot program to track processed food.
Under the bill, the government can force a company to issue a recall, if it introduces contaminated or adulterated food into the food chain. Under current law, the government can only suggest a recall.
U.S. food importers would be required to perform risk assessment on foreign suppliers to verify that imported food is produced in compliance with applicable safety requirements. The government would issue guidance to assist U.S. importers in developing foreign supplier verification programs.