The U.S. Senate has passed historic legislation that will greatly improve the safety of the nation’s food supply and protect countless Americans from foodborne pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Senators approved the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) on Tuesday, November 30, by a vote of 73-25. The Make Our Food Safe coalition has worked throughout to secure its passage.
The bill, which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate health committee last year, gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new oversight and enforcement powers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the legislation in July 2009, which includes stronger inspection authorities for federal officials when investigating domestic facilities and imports.
Lawmakers from both chambers will have to reconcile the differences between the bills before sending it to President Obama for his signature.
Passage of the bill marks the first major update to federal oversight of the U.S. food supply since the Great Depression. FDA is responsible for safeguarding about 80 percent of all food, but inadequate budgets, limited enforcement authorities and outdated laws have hindered the agency's ability to do what is needed to help prevent outbreaks. In addition to more government authority in recalling tainted food, S. 510 will mean more inspections for food processing plants.
A number of high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness in recent years – including an incident earlier this year in which more than 1,600 Americans were sickened by contaminated eggs – highlight the shortcomings of current law. These contamination problems not only harm consumers, they also result in reduced confidence in the safety of the food supply and the loss of millions of dollars by food producers due to recalls and lost sales.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. 510 in March 2009 and the bill passed with cosponsors from both major political parties.
Statements from Make Our Food Safe Coalition members on the passage of S. 510