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This morning, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to protect consumers from preventable food-borne illness.
The new law will:
- Give the FDA a specific statutory mandate to prevent foodborne illness.
- Require food processors to identify where contamination may occur in the food production process, and then require them to take steps to prevent the contamination.
- Establish a statutory minimum frequency for FDA inspections of domestic food processing facilities.
- Hold imported food to the same safety standards as food produced in the U.S.
- Carry out science-based minimum standards for safe agricultural production of fresh fruits and vegetables that pose the highest risk.
- Improve coordination across federal, state, and local governments and provide grants to build state and local capacity for foodborne illness detection, surveillance, testing, and response.
- Provide the FDA, for the first time, with mandatory recall authority.Develop requirements that strike a balance between protecting public health and preventing any undue burden to small businesses.
One in four Americans get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and more than 5,000 people die each year from eating contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The Food Safety Modernization Act overhauls the FDA's food safety authority for the first time in 70 years, giving the agency more authority to inspect food processing facilities and to order mandatory recalls of contaminated food," said Steve Breaux, spokesman for WashPIRG, a consumer advocacy group.
The House of Representatives passed its food safety bill more than a year ago.
"Now that the bill has finally passed the Senate, we're hopeful that Congress will work quickly to reconcile any differences between the House and Senate versions and deliver it to the President's desk," Breaux said. "American consumers have been waiting too long for the FDA to have the regulatory authority to do common-sense things like recall unsafe food, inspect food processing facilities, and require imported foods to meet the same standards as food produced in the U.S."
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