It may not be the most publicized piece of news coming out of the White House lately, but the Obama Administration did kick off the New Year with legislation implementing a sweeping overhaul of the country’s food safety laws. “The Food Safety Modernization Act” was signed by President Obama on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, and is the first major piece of legislation to address food safety since the Great Depression.
Having passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate last month, this historic act places unprecedented authority in the hands of the FDA to monitor, inspect, and recall whole, processed, and imported foods. It may surprise many to know that until now the FDA could only react to food safety concerns by recommending recalls – now the government agency will be granted $1.4 billion to inspect processing plants, order recalls, and set stricter guidelines on imported products.
While the bill stipulates that large farms and food manufacturers must construct in-depth food safety plans that they will present to the FDA, smaller growers, farmers, and food processors are exempt from the process. Meat, poultry, and eggs are also exempt under the new law.
Overall, the Food Safety Modernization Act received a surprising level of bipartisan support in both the House and Senate – with the rising number and severity of food contamination issues and national recalls in recent years, it’s difficult to underplay the need for such legislation. In the United States, around 3,000 people die a year from food-borne illnesses. And while few dispute the necessity for such legislation, full financial backing for the bill has yet to be secured.
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