Monday, August 24, 2009

Food Safety bill passes in the US House

Food Safety bill passes in US House of Representatives

At the end of July, 2009, the US House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act, H.R. 2749. Now the ball is in the court for the Senate to pass similar legislation. There are some key things in here that are useful, if this act is actually enforced. As we saw from the pet food recalls and the plethora of recalls of processed food products since then, ensuring that there are adequate staff in place to enforce regulations is critical.

The article details several points in the legislation:

"• Inspections of high-risk food facilities at least every 6-12 months as well as inspection of lower-risk facilities at least once every 3 years (FDA currently averages inspections once every ten years.

• High-risk food facilities to submit the results of testing their finished food products for safety.

• All registered domestic and foreign food facilities to identify hazards and implement steps to prevent or reduce contaminants that may appear in food.

• Businesses to keep basic safety records in a standard format so they are easier for FDA to review.

• An FDA-mandated recall if a company fails to do so when requested.

• Food facilities selling to American consumers to register with the FDA and pay annual fees.

• The FDA to gather information and run a pilot project to set up a method to trace food back to its source in the case of contamination. Such a “traceback” system would have to allow FDA to trace food back to its source within 2 business days."

A number of these recommendations were directly a result of the pet food recalls. Remember how no one could identify the source of the melamine? And how the FDA was unable to issue recalls for tainted pet food products? At least these reforms are something and it's doubtful that these would have been passed in the Bush era.

Greater oversight and further legislative reforms are needed however. One-size fits all policies don't work in the context of our food supply system, particularly with respect to small organic farmers -- there are too many variables.

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