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By Stacy Straczynski
WASHINGTON -- Advocates for food safety scored a major win Friday when the House of Representatives approved a bill that will initiate sweeping reform to existing laws.
The Food Safety Enhancement Act, H.R. 2749, will increase the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority in food production inspections, developing new enforcement measures and tracking food recalls.
Government funds of $3.5 billion will be allocated to facilitate the revisions, partially funded by a $500 annual tax on food producers. The bill passed by a vote of 283 to 142.
"This bipartisan, landmark bill will fundamentally change the way we protect public health against such outbreaks and update our federal food safety laws to keep pace with the changes in our food production and processing methods," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement. "It provides the FDA better access to the records of food producers and manufacturers, without having to wait for an outbreak of food-borne illness. And it strengthens penalties imposed on food facilities that fail to comply with safety requirements."
Initial support for the bill grew from multiple instances of salmonella-related illness and recalls over the last several years with items such as spinach, peanut products and peppers.
President and Chief Executive of the National Restaurant Association Dawn Sweeney said in a statement that she "applauds chairman emeritus John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, for their leadership and collaborative approach to reform our nation's food safety system. We are pleased with the legislation's focus on prevention, increased resources and risk-based approach to targeting those resources."
Although the bill was generally well received by the food and foodservice industries, some are still looking for additional amendments to the bill’s current provisions, such as increased requirements on record-keeping for restaurateurs. There are also concerns about the proposed tax for food producers, which may result in pricing increases for consumers.
President Obama called the bill "a major step forward in modernizing our food safety system," in a statement, and called for the support of Senate members who have yet to cast their vote.
-- Nielsen Business Media
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