July 31, 2009
A comprehensive food safety bill that gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new authorities to take preventative steps to stop foodborne illnesses passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. The chamber voted 283 to 142 to approve a $3.8 billion measure that would direct the FDA to write new regulations to safeguard the food supply, require more frequent inspections of processing plants and force companies to keep better records to help regulators trace outbreaks. The plan would be partly financed by a $500 annual fee on food producers.
H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, included several concessions sought by grain and livestock farmers and small farms that sell food direct to farmers markets, restaurants or grocery stores. Meat and egg facilities already regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be exempt from the FDA's extended powers. Food, livestock, poultry, facilities and farms are exempt from the requirements of this legislation if they are regulated by the secretary of agriculture under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act or the Egg Products Inspection Act.
Another aspect of the bill was its provision requiring imported food to meet the same production standards that will be required of U.S. farmers and processors. Proposed legislation that would ban the use of non-therapeutic antimicrobials in food-producing animals was not included in this food safety bill.
The American Sheep Industry Association, along with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council, wrote to congressional leadership on the importance of the livestock exemption to avoid duplication of regulations by both USDA and FDA.