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Senate Responds to Peanut Recalls with Bipartisan Food Safety Reforms

Mar.04.2009

On March 3, 2009, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authority and resources to regulate the nation’s food supply. The bipartisan group of Senators introduced the bill in an effort to address the recent recall of tainted peanut products – the largest food recall in the nation’s history – and other significant food recalls in the past year. Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) are co-sponsors.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would require food facilities to evaluate hazards that could affect food safety and establish preventive controls to prevent adulteration of food products. The Act would give FDA access to hazard analyses and preventive plans, and expanded access to facility records in the event of a food emergency. The Act would impose accreditation standards on food testing laboratories and would require food testing to be reported to FDA. The Act would also require FDA to promulgate regulations to protect against intentional adulteration.

The Act would impose more stringent requirements on food importers, requiring risk-based supplier verification to ensure food products entering the U.S. are safe. FDA would be authorized to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry for a food that does not have certification or is from a foreign facility that refused to allow FDA inspection of its facility.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would increase the frequency of inspections at food facilities and would require annual inspection of high-risk facilities. The proposed legislation provides for user fees associated with reinspection and reimportation activities when non conformances are found by FDA during initial inspections. The legislation would require greater coordination between federal, state, and local food-borne illness surveillance systems, and would expand the capacity of those systems, allow timely public access to de-identified surveillance data and integrate these systems with other biosurveillance capabilities. The Act would also authorize FDA to order mandatory recalls of food products and to suspend a facility’s bi-annual registration if FDA suspects that the facility has or may distribute unsafe food. The legislation authorizes increased funding and field staff in order for the FDA to implement the requirements of the Act.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is the third major piece of food safety legislation introduced in the 111th Congress. On January 28, 2009, Representative John Dingell introduced H.R. 759, the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009. Representative Dingell’s bill contains certain provisions that are similar to those in the Senate bill, such as imposing new requirements on foreign manufacturers, requiring facilities to evaluate hazards and establish preventive controls, and giving FDA the authority to issue mandatory recalls. On February 4, 2009, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, which would create a new Food Safety Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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