The Senate has passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act by a 73-25 margin on Tuesday, November 30th. The legislation is being hailed by food safety advocates as the "most important food-safety legislation in a generation." The Food and Drug Administration has been granted a whole new set of powers such as being able to enforce food recalls and increase inspections.
After a wave of recent food contaminations in eggs, spinach and peanut butter, Congress was able to pull together bipartisan support for the bill. 87 million Americans fall ill and 5,700 die each year due to contaminated food.
The $1.4 billion legislation allows the FDA to issue mandatory food recalls rather than only being able to request manufacturers to do so. The agency may also now set new food safety standards for raw produce and increase inspections of domestic food facilities to once every three years and inspect foreign food facilities.
Despite the fact that the FDA oversees 80% of the nation's meat including seafood, dairy and canned foods, the legislation does not have any provisions for meat or poultry, which continues to be regulated by the Department of Agriculture.
Small farmers, who were amongst some of the opponents to the bill, were able to win exemption in the legislation. Farmers with sales $500,000 or less or those who sell half their food to consumers within 275 miles are exempt from the provisions in the bill.
The bill is expected to cause a slight increase in food prices since food manufacturers will most likely pass on stricter regulation costs onto consumers. However, the FDA argues the bill will save manufacturer's the costs of having to recall contaminated food.