Washington -- Increased food plant inspections and more government authority in food-recall cases are on their way with passage of the long-awaited federal food safety bill by the Senate Nov. 30.
-- Increased food plant inspections and more government authority in food-recall cases are on their way with passage of the long-awaited federal food safety bill by the Senate Nov. 30.
Senate Bill 510, also known as the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act, was passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Nov. 18 by a unanimous bipartisan vote and by the full Senate by a 73-25 vote Nov. 30. The House passed the bill by a 283-142 vote in July 2009.
The $1.4 billion bill will amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to expand the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to regulate food. What does this mean for veterinarians? It is aimed at making greater attempts to prevent food-borne illnesses from reaching the dinner table by requiring food-processing plants to conduct inspections with greater thoroughness and frequency. Food facilities that are suspected to be causing adverse health conditions to humans or animals could have their registrations suspended under the new bill.
The bill also directs the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the Agriculture Department to develop a joint national plan called the National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy to improve safety and prevent food-supply problems. HHS would have more authority to order recalls of food suspected of being tainted, and food processors would have more strict requirements on record keeping for preventative controls and performance monitoring.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the food-safety bill as being in line with its own Food Safety Policy, but is concerned about a provision in the bill concerning accreditation.
“It is the AVMA’s opinion that accreditation of accrediting bodies should remain with the independence third-party system currently utilized and that third-party accrediting bodies should be able to accredit foreign laboratories,” AVMA says in its official position on the bill. However, “the AVMA recognizes that much progress has already been made towards an integrated consortium of laboratory networks and a food defense strategy and believes that provisions in SB 510 would enhance implementation of these concepts and possibly provide additional funding for these efforts.”
The road to passage already has been long for the bill, which initially was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in March 2009.