Senate to vote on food safety bill

Today would be a good day to call your Senator, if you are so inclined to do such things. S. 510:
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
will be soon up for a vote, possibly as soon as the end of the week. Some of the new regulations:

  • Authorizes the Secretary (of Health and Human Services – HHS) to suspend the registration of a food facility if the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.
  • Requires each owner, operator, or agent in charge of a food facility to: (1) evaluate the hazards that could affect food; (2) identify and implement preventive controls; (3) monitor the performance of those controls; and (4) maintain records of such monitoring
  • Requires the Secretary to: (1) allocate resources to inspect facilities and articles of food imported into the United States based on their risk profiles; (2) increase the frequency of inspection of all facilities; and (3) report to the appropriate congressional committees annually on food facility and food import inspections.
  • Authorizes the Secretary to: (1) provide a responsible party with an opportunity to cease distribution and recall an adulterated or misbranded article of food if the use of or exposure to such article will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals; (2) order a responsible party to immediately cease distribution and provide notice to relevant persons if the responsible party does not voluntarily cease distribution of or recall such article of food; and (3) order a recall if the Secretary determines that removal of the article from commerce is necessary, but only after providing an opportunity for a hearing.

Is it a perfect Bill? Lord, no, but it’s better than what we have in place now, which is demonstrably weak. Will it likely get voted into law? The odds are low, as this bill will have to be reconciled with a House-passed version, which is more expensive and a bit more demanding of food producers. The chances of that happening before the end of this session of Congress is low. But low probability is better than none at all.

And in the end, it’s better than what just happened in the United Kingdom, where McDonald’s, Diageo, and PepsiCo are set to help write UK health policy.