Se­nate passes food safety bill again

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

WASHINGTON: The Se­nate on Sun­day passed a sweep­ing bill to make food safer, send­ing it to the House in the wan­ing days of Congress.

It was the sec­ond time the Se­nate passed the bill, which would give the govern­ment broad new pow­ers to in­crease in­spec­tions of food pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties and force com­pa­nies to re­call tainted food. The cham­ber passed the bill for the first time three weeks ago, but it was caught in a con­sti­tu­tional snag when sen­a­tors mis­tak­enly in­cluded tax pro­vi­sions that are by law sup­posed to orig­i­nate in the House. The ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion passed by the Se­nate on Sun­day is amended to avoid an­other such mishap.

The bill would place stricter stan­dards on im­ported foods and re­quire larger pro­duc­ers to fol­low tougher rules for keep­ing food safe. The leg­is­la­tion has en­joyed bi­par­ti­san sup­port, and sup­port­ers say pas­sage is cru­cial in the wake of E. coli and sal­monella out­breaks in peanuts, eggs and pro­duce.

Re­cent do­mes­tic out­breaks of E. coli and sal­monella have ex­posed a lack of re­sources and author­ity at the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion as the em­bat­tled agency strug­gled to con­tain and trace the con­tam­i­nated prod­ucts. The agency rarely in­spects many food fa­cil­i­ties and farms, vis­it­ing some ev­ery decade or so and oth­ers not at all.

The bill would em­pha­size pre­ven­tion so the agency could try to stop out­breaks be­fore they be­gin. Farm­ers and food pro­ces­sors would have to tell the FDA how they are work­ing to keep their food safe at dif­fer­ent stages of pro­duc­tion.

The House orig­i­nally tried to rec­tify the Se­nate mis­take by in­clud­ing the leg­is­la­tion in a year-end bud­get bill. Sen­a­tors also in­cluded food safety in their ver­sion of the bud­get bill, but the spend­ing leg­is­la­tion hit a road­block when Repub­li­cans in­sisted it not in­clude any ad­dons. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., res­ur­rected the bill - which many thought was dead as Congress rushes to wrap up for the year - by pass­ing it and send­ing it to the House as a stand­alone mea­sure Sun­day. -Afp

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