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Senate Passes Food Safety Bill, but Challenges Remain

Dec 03, 2010

UPDATE

The Senate on Tuesday passed S.510, a comprehensive food safety bill that would give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to require facilities to have food safety plans, order mandatory food recalls, require more-frequent inspections of food facilities and impose civil fines for violations. The bill also would give FDA access to plant records during emergencies and bar the importation of high-risk foods if the products lack proper certification or if U.S. inspectors are denied access to processing facilities.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 73-25. Fifteen Republicans joined all the Democratic Senators in support of the bill. A procedural mistake, however, may require the Senate to pass the bil a second time, leaving its future in doubt.

"This is far from a perfect bill," said Ruth Saunders, vice president for policy and legislative affairs, "but the Senate bill takes a more responsible and reasonable approach than its House counterpart." She added that IDFA appreciates the efforts of Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) to seek input from the dairy industry in developing the legislation.

IDFA and other food and agriculture trade organizations have been supportive of S. 510 over the House version of the bill, which passed in July 2009. IDFA worked to include language in the Senate bill that requires FDA to coordinate with state inspection programs, such as the state-based inspections under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. Unfortunately, the Senate rejected language proposed by IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation that would have required raw milk distributors to come under the new FDA regulations.

Two issues that had held up passage of the bill were resolved prior to the vote. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) ultimately withdrew her controversial amendment to restrict the use of bisphenol A (BPA). Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), however, was successful in his effort to exempt food manufacturing facilities from the preventive control requirements of the bill if the facility has annual sales of less than $500,000 and a limited area of distribution. In addition, sales must be directly to consumers, restaurants or retail food establishments. IDFA and other food and agriculture organizations opposed the Tester proposal.

Although the House had signaled that it was willing to vote on the bill, as passed by the Senate, and send it to the president for his signature, the process has been delayed by a procedural mistake that may require the Senate to pass the bill a second time. With time running short in the lame duck session, the future of the bill is very much in doubt.

Members with questions may contact Saunders at (202) 220-3553 or rsaunders@idfa.org.

 

 
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