The Senate has approved a major food safety reform package, clearing the measure on a 73-25 vote. The bill primarily targets activities by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including giving the agency the authority to order food recalls.
Next step for the legislation is going to be House action and all indications are now that the chamber will act on the bill before they exit Washington for the year.
Ag interests had found this bill particularly controversial, with many saying it was going to negatively impact farmers who sell produce directly to consumers. But lawmakers adjusted the legislation and included a provision to exempt small farms and food processors with annual sales under $500,000 from the regulations if they sell their products directly to consumers or restaurants no more than 275 miles away from the production site.
Other provisions of the package:
- The bill would allow FDA to order a recall of tainted foods, something which shifts from current rules which only allow FDA to negotiate with businesses to get them to voluntarily recall a product.
- The plan would also require larger food processors and manufacturers to register with the FDA and create detailed food-safety plans.
- FDA would also have to come up with new produce-safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables and would set stricter standards for the safety of imported food.
- One of the key issues that will arise will be relative to increased inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities, something which will require increased staffing and thus increased funding for FDA. The Senate version of the bill does not include fees that the House plan had to fund these increased inspections.